International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano
(photo by iaea.org)
The failure of a landmark 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers to restrict Tehran's nuclear program would represent a "great loss," the head of the UN's atomic watchdog has said.
"As of today, I can state that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments" under the deal, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano said in a speech opening a quarterly meeting of the IAEA's board of governors.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been a harsh critic of what he calls the agreement's "disastrous flaws."
Trump in January set a 120-day deadline for U.S. lawmakers and European allies to "fix" the agreement or face a U.S. withdrawal.
A U.S. exit could kill the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Tehran has refused to renegotiate.
The U.S. administration is concerned that parts of the agreement will begin to expire from 2026 and that it fails to address Iran's missile program, its actions in the region, or its human rights abuses.
Amano said the accord "represents a significant gain for verification" and that if it "were to fail, it would be a great loss for nuclear verification and for multilateralism."
Last month, an IAEA report concluded that Iran was continuing to abide by the deal's key measures.
Amano said inspectors had had "access to all the sites and locations which we needed to visit."
The IAEA had requested "further clarifications" over the notification Iran gave the agency in January that it intended to construct "naval nuclear propulsion" at some point in the future, Amano told the closed-door meeting of 35 member states.
Iran has long admitted publicly that it plans to develop nuclear propulsion for naval vessels.
While Iran has seen massive economic benefits from the JCPOA, notably by being able to resume oil exports, it still subjected to U.S. sanctions in other areas.
cartoon by Javad Takjou, Iranian daily Ghanoon
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Iran on March 5. Le Drian's visit was originally scheduled for January, but it was delayed after student-led street protests broke out in many Iranian cities.
He was scheduled to meet with President Hassan Rohani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss "bilateral, regional, and international issues," including the JCPOA implementation.
Le Drian told the AFP news agency that he informed Tehran that he is no "emissary of Donald Trump."
But he did tell Tehran that the country needed to address concerns over its ballistic-missile program or face new sanctions.
Zarif on March 5 slammed the European Union for "extremism" in its relationship to Tehran in an interview published ahead of his meeting with Le Drian.
"In order to keep the United States in the Iran nuclear deal, European countries are suffering from extremism and this will ultimately undermine Europe's policy," Zarif told the reformist newspaper Etemad.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Iranian armed forces said Tehran will press on with its missile program regardless of Western pressure to halt it.
"Iran's missile program will continue nonstop and foreign powers have no right to intervene on this issue," the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Masud Jazayeri as saying.
He also said no Iranian official had permission to "discuss this issue with foreigners," Tasnim reported.
French President Emmanuel Macron, during a March 4 phone conversation, urged Rohani to put the "necessary pressure" on the Syrian government to halt "indiscriminate" attacks on civilians in a rebel-held enclave in the eastern Ghouta region.
The French president underscored the "particular responsibility for Iran, because of its ties to the [Damascus] regime, regarding the implementation of the humanitarian truce" sought by the United Nations, his office said.
According to the Iranian presidency's website, Rohani countered by telling Macron that countries selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and its allies must answer for "war crimes" being committed in Yemen.
France is one of the biggest arms exporters to Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a military coalition backing the Yemeni internationally recognized government against Shi'ite Huthi rebels and their allies since 2015.
Weapons programs and Syria aside, Paris and Tehran have growing economic interests, and Le Drian is likely to engage Iranian officials in business discussions.
Iran in 2017 sealed a gas-exploration deal worth $5 billion with French energy giant Total, a result of eased sanctions after Tehran signed the nuclear accord.
Iranian and French media reported that Le Drian's trip will prepare the grounds for a potential visit by Macron to Iran later this year.
With reporting by Reuters, Fars, AFP, ISNA, and Mehr
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