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Iran has converted most of a nuclear stockpile, which it could have turned quickly into weapons-grade uranium, into less volatile forms as part of a deal with six world powers, the UN atomic agency has reported.
The monthly update by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced on Thursday, showed that Iran had, as stipulated by the November 24 agreement last year with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia, diluted half of its higher-grade enriched uranium reserve to a fissile content less prone to bomb proliferation.
The development leaves Iran with substantially less of the 20 percent enriched uranium that it would need for a nuclear warhead, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The IAEA, which has a pivotal role in verifying that Iran is living up to its part of the accord, made clear that Iran so far is undertaking the agreed steps to curb its nuclear programme.
Iran denies any interest in atomic arms. But it agreed to some nuclear concessions in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions crippling its economy under the deal, which took effect in January.
The IAEA report also pointed to a new delay in Iran's construction of a plant designed to turn low-enriched uranium gas (LEU) into an oxide powder that is not suitable for further processing into highly-enriched bomb-grade uranium.
Tehran told the IAEA last month that the site would be commissioned on April 9. But Thursday's update by the UN nuclear watchdog said the commissioning had been put off, without giving any reason.
However, "Iran has indicated to the agency that this will not have an adverse impact on the implementation of (its) undertaking" to convert the uranium gas, the agency said.
Hello, everyone, and thank you for coming today for this backgrounder. It’s amazing to think that only a few months ago, many of us were in Geneva in the freezing cold finalizing the Joint Plan of Action at 4 in the morning. And today, we find ourselves at the halfway point in these comprehensive negotiations in a somewhat warmer and beautiful Vienna. Geneva was beautiful, just cold. (Laughter.)
In the past two days, we have continued our substantive discussions about all of the issues that will have to be part of a comprehensive agreement – every single issue you can imagine. These sessions have been in-depth and the conversations have given us important additional insights into where the biggest and most challenging gaps will be as we move forward.
At this point, we don’t know if we’ll be successful in bridging those gaps, but we are certainly committed, as everyone in the room is, to trying. One thing to keep in mind as we reach this midway mark is that all sides have kept all of the commitments they made in the Joint Plan of Action. That’s given all of us more confidence as we negotiate this even tougher comprehensive agreement.
In that vein today, we’ve just concluded a meeting of the Joint Commission that was announced when we implemented the Joint Plan of Action. Given it’s the halfway point, we thought it would be an appropriate time to check in on implementation progress, and as I said, the report out of that meeting which I just received is everyone acknowledged that everything was going well. This meeting took place at the experts level, not at the political directors level.
The next step in this process is to begin actually drafting text, which we have all said would happen after this round. This round and the last round was used to review all of the issues and understand each other’s positions at the beginning of this negotiation. I would caution everyone from thinking that a final agreement is imminent or that it will be easy. As we draft, I have no doubt this will be quite difficult at times. And as we’ve always been clear and as we said explicitly when we were negotiating the Joint Plan of Action – and it is even more so for the comprehensive agreement – we will not rush into a bad deal. We just won’t do it. No deal – as Secretary Kerry has said many times, as the President of the United States has said, no deal is better than a bad deal.
So now, we’ll move forward to begin drafting actual language. We’ll meet back here in Vienna at the political director level in May. As always, our experts and political directors will be working in the meantime on all of the technical issues that are a part of these talks. And we are all very focused on that special date, July 20th, because we believe that it should give us sufficient time to reach a comprehensive agreement if an agreement is indeed possible.
"Minister Zarif and I, together with the Political Directors of China, France, Germany, Russia,the United Kingdom and the United States, just finished a third round of talks in our ongoingdiplomatic effort to seek a Comprehensive Agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue asenvisaged in the Joint Plan of Action.We would again like to thank the Austrian Foreign Minister and his staff as well as the UnitedNations for their support in hosting these negotiations in Vienna.