Zarif: Iran can resume 20% enrichment in less than 24 hours

As technical talks with Tehran are set to resume in Geneva, Iranian foreign minister says nuclear program will continue; no sanctions will be eased until a nuclear agreement is implemented, says Western diplomat.

December 19, 2013 07:04
2 minute read.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)


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Iran can resume 20 percent uranium enrichment in less than 24 hours, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a day before the resumption of talks in Geneva on how to implement an interim nuclear deal aimed at temporarily freezing Iran’s nuclear program.

Zarif told Iranian students on Wednesday that the agreement signed between the Islamic Republic and six world powers on November 24 in Geneva recognizes Tehran's nuclear program, and assured them the program will continue.

He also noted that "the structure of the sanctions and the antagonistic atmosphere created by the West against Iran is falling apart," accord to Fars.

Negotiations are set to resume in Geneva on Thursday between Iran and the P5+1 world powers on how to implement the Geneva deal.

Iranian officials paused the talks last week due to an increase in sanctions pressure from the United States.

An international corps of nuclear and sanctions experts will attend the meeting in Vienna, where the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is based. The IAEA will take part in the implementation of the interim deal reached in Geneva on November 24, which is supposed to effectively freeze Tehran’s nuclear progress – both its uranium enrichment and its construction of a heavy-water plutonium plant – in exchange for modest sanctions relief.

“It’s in the interests of the Iranians to go quickly, because there won’t be an easing of sanctions until the agreement is implemented,” a senior Western diplomat said.

In a sign of this interest, deputy Iranian chief negotiator Abbas Araqchi said the expert talks were set for two days but might continue into Saturday and Sunday if required, according to Fars.

The US blacklisted an additional 19 companies last week that it said violated sanctions against trading with Iran.

While acknowledging that the designations were not new sanctions per se, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the move violated the spirit of the Geneva accord.

Diplomats in Vienna said the UN nuclear agency could face costs of roughly €5 million ($6.9m.) to verify that Iran lived up to the deal.

The 35-nation governing board of the IAEA is expected to hold an extraordinary meeting next month to discuss its expanded role.

The extra cost is unlikely to create any major difficulty in view of the importance of resolving the dispute.

However, diplomats accredited to the agency said it could be sensitive as IAEA director- general Yukiya Amano would likely need to seek member states to help to pay for more inspections in Iran and to find some of the money internally.

The IAEA’s budget for 2014 is around €344m.

The IAEA – tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons – regularly inspects Iranian nuclear sites in an effort to make sure there is no diversion of atomic material for military purposes.

But it will step up the frequency of its visits to the uranium enrichment sites of Natanz and Fordow under the Geneva agreement and carry out other additional tasks in inspecting nuclear-linked facilities.

The agency has two to four staff in Iran almost every day of the year, with some 20 dedicated to inspector activity there, but that number is now likely to rise.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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