Iranian president announces another break from nuclear deal

Rouhani says the machines, at its nuclear facility in Fordo, will be injected with the uranium gas as of Wednesday. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 November 2019

Iranian president announces another break from nuclear deal

  • President Hassan Rouhani made the statement in an address carried live by Iranian state TV on Tuesday
  • Under Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, the machines are supposed to spin without gas injection

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that Iran would resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant south of Tehran in its latest step back from a troubled 2015 agreement with major powers.
The suspension of all enrichment at the Fordow plant in the mountains near Qom was one of the restrictions on its nuclear activities that Iran accepted in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
But Washington’s abandonment of the deal in May last year followed by its reimposition of crippling sanctions prompted Iran to begin a phased suspension of its own commitments in May this year.
Under the terms of the agreement Iran has retained more than 1,000 first-generation centrifuges at the plant which have been running empty or remained idle since it took effect.
“Starting from tomorrow (Wednesday), we will begin injecting (uranium hexafluoride) gas at Fordow,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast by state television.
His announcement came a day after tensions flared anew on the 40th anniversary of the US embassy siege and hostage crisis, with thousands in Tehran taking to the streets and Washington imposing fresh sanctions.
Iran said the resumption of enrichment at Fordow would be carried out transparently and witnessed by inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But the European Union voiced disquiet at the new step away from the 2015 deal.
“We are concerned by President Rouhani’s announcement today to further reduce Iran’s commitments,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.
France urged Iran to “go back on its decisions which contradict the accord.”
And Russia too expressed worry, despite its good relations with Iran.
“We are monitoring the development of the situation with concern,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“We support the preservation of this deal.”
At the same time, Peskov said Moscow understood Tehran’s concerns over the “unprecedented and illegal sanctions” imposed by Washington.
The move is the fourth announced by Iran since it began responding to Washington’s abandonment of its commitments.
Iran has repeatedly warned the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — that the agreement can only be rescued if they help it circumvent US sanctions.
European governments have strived to come up with a mechanism that would allow foreign firms to continue to do business with Iran without incurring US penalties.
But to Iran’s mounting frustration, their efforts have so far failed to have any significant impact.
Rouhani stressed that Iran remained committed to efforts to save the 2015 agreement despite its phased suspension of some of its commitments.
“The fourth phase, like the three previous ones, is reversible,” he said.
“We are committed to all the behind-the-scenes negotiations we have with some countries for a solution.
“Over the next two months, we will negotiate more.”
Rouhani said Iran wanted to return to a situation in which “we can easily sell our oil, we can easily use our money in banks.”
If that were achieved, “we will completely go back to the previous situation.”
The European Union warned Monday that its continued support for the deal depended on Tehran fulfilling its commitments.
Its spokeswoman said the bloc “remains committed” to the deal but “our commitment... depends on full compliance by Iran.”
“We have continued to urge Iran to reverse such steps without delay and to refrain from other measures that would undermine the nuclear deal,” Kocijancic said.
On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond a 300-kilo maximum set by the deal, and a week later, it announced it had exceeded a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.
On September 7, it fired up advanced centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles.
On Monday, Iran announced a more than tenfold increase in enriched uranium production as a result of the steps back from the nuclear deal it had already undertaken.
Enriched uranium production has reached five kilogrammes per day, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters.
That compares with the level of 450 grams two months ago.


Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassment

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassment

  • Protesters call for law allowing Lebanese women married to foreigners to pass their citizenship to their husbands and children
  • Women also protest against sexual harassment and bullying

BEIRUT: Scores of women marched through the streets of Beirut on Saturday to protest against sexual harassment and bullying and demanding rights including the passing of citizenship to children of Lebanese women married to foreigners.
The march started outside the American University of Beirut, west of the capital, and ended in a downtown square that has been witnessing daily protests for more than seven weeks.
Nationwide demonstrations in Lebanon broke out Oct. 17 against proposed taxes on WhatsApp calls turned into a condemnation of the country’s political elite, who have run the country since the 1975-90 civil war. The government resigned in late October, meeting a key demand of the protesters.
“We want to send a message against sexual harassment. They say that the revolution is a woman, therefore, if there is a revolution, women must be part of it,” said protester Berna Dao. “Women are being raped, their right is being usurped, and they are not able to pass their citizenship.”
Activists have been campaigning for years so that parliament drafts a law that allows Lebanese women married to foreigners pass their citizenship to their husbands and children.
Earlier this year, Raya Al-Hassan became the first woman in the Arab world to take the post of interior minister. The outgoing Cabinet has four women ministers, the highest in the country in decades.
Lebanon is passing through a crippling economic and financial crisis that has worsened since the protests began.
During the women’s protest in Riad Solh Square, a man set himself on fire before people nearby extinguished the flames. His motivation was not immediately clear and an ambulance came shortly afterward and evacuated him.
Also on Saturday, outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri appealed to more countries to help Lebanon in its crisis to import essential goods. The request made in a letter to the leaders of Germany, Spain and Britain, came a day after Hariri sent similar letters to other countries including Saudi Arabia, US, Russia and China.