Richard Ratcliffe: UK needs to be 'braver' about challenging Iran
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Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani made the admission ahead of renewed talks aimed at restoring the Iran nuclear deal. He also alleged Israel’s spy agency Mossad killed his former colleague, top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, because of his work on nuclear weapons in an interview marking the one-year anniversary of his death.
Mr Fakhrizadeh was assassinated when a car bomb exploded near his vehicle on November 27 last year.
Mr Abbasi-Davani said: “When the country’s all-encompassing growth began covering satellites, missiles and nuclear weapons… the issue became more serious for them.”
Iranian officials have pointed to a fatwa issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which bans the development of nuclear weapons, as proof its atomic programme was for peaceful purposes.
The former head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation said: “Although our stance on nuclear weapons based on the supreme leader’s explicit fatwa regarding nuclear weapons being forbidden is quite clear, Fakhrizadeh created this system and his concern wasn’t just the defence of our own country.”
He was talking to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) ahead of Iran re-entering negotiations with China, Russia, France, Germany, the UK, US and EU on returning to the nuclear deal.
The talks in Vienna are the first on Iran’s nuclear programme since the country elected hardline president Ebrahim Raisi in August.
Iran had refused to enter into direct talks with the United States after former US president Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018. He argued that it did not go far enough in limiting Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Since then, Iran has ramped up its enrichment of uranium beyond a 3.67 percent limit imposed by the deal struck in 2015.
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The Telegraph reports that this year Iran enriched uranium to 60 percent, which is close to the 90 percent required for a nuclear weapon.
Iran maintains it is enriching uranium for civilian purposes only, but experts say there are few legitimate, peaceful applications for such high levels.
Mohammad Eslami, Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, insisted on Friday the Islamic Republic has demonstrated its nuclear path is merely peaceful.
The IRNA reports him saying that Iran’s enemies have always tried to ruin the Islamic Revolution with the latest attempt coming from the US in the form of “economic terrorism”.
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Tehran wants guarantees the US will not exit the deal again.
An Iranian official close to the talks told Reuters: “Our demands are clear.
“Other parties, and especially Americans, should decide whether they want this deal to be revived or not. They abandoned the pact, so they should return to it and lift all sanctions.”
Iran insists all US and European Union sanctions imposed since 2017 are lifted.
These include those not related to its nuclear programme.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said in a statement shortly after the talks restarted: “The United States still fails to properly understand the fact that there is no way to return to the deal without a verifiable and effective lifting of all sanctions.
“The return of the US to the nuclear deal would be meaningless without guarantees to prevent the recurrence of the bitter experience of the past. This opportunity is not a window that can remain open forever.”
But British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the negotiations “the last opportunity for the Iranians to come to the table” after a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Ms Truss said: “We want those talks to work. But if they don’t work, all options are on the table.”
However, the Chinese envoy to the Iran nuclear talks said on Monday the US should remove all sanctions inconsistent with the 2015 nuclear agreement, including those applying to China.
According to The Telegraph, experts believe Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a bomb within six weeks but it could take up to two years for it to develop it into a warhead.
Nuclear nonproliferation researcher, Andrea Stricker, told AFP that enrichment to 60 percent could be around 99 percent of the effort to reach weapons-grade which underscores the gravity of the situation.
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