November 25, 2020

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Saudi Arabia urges 'decisive stance' against Iran's nuclear programme

Satellite image shows Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility in Isfahan - Reuters
Satellite image shows Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility in Isfahan – Reuters

Saudi Arabia urged a “decisive stance” against Iran’s nuclear programme on Thursday, the day after the United Nations nuclear watchdog announced the Islamic republic has stockpiled 12 times more enriched uranium it is permitted under a 2015 deal with world powers.

In an annual address to the top government advisory body, King Salman bin Abdulaziz called for “a drastic handling of [Iran’s] efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and develop its ballistic missiles programme.”

The Islamic republic is “fanning the flames of sectarianism” through its “interference in other countries”, the king said in remarks published early Thursday. 

Shia-dominated Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia are locked in a battle for regional influence, engaging in proxy conflict in Yemen and elsewhere across the Middle East. 

The administration of US President Donald Trump, a close Saudi ally, has pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran after Washington unilaterally withdrew from a deal limiting Tehran’s nuclear programme. 

Since then Iran has progressively walked back its commitments under the agreement, though it insists the agreement remains “an important achievement of multilateral diplomacy.”

In a report published Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran stockpiled 2.4 tonnes of enriched uranium, far above the deal’s 202.8kg limit. 

The agency also said Iran had breached the deal by moving a first batch of advanced centrifuges from an above-ground plant at its main uranium enrichment site to an underground one apparently built to withstand air strikes. 

The move was apparently in response to an apparent sabotage attack on Iran’s  above-ground centrifuge-building workshop at Natanz in July.

The report also noted that inspectors identified nuclear material at an unnamed site in Iran and that Tehran’s explanation was “not technically credible”.

Iran on Wednesday insisted it was complying with the IAEA. 

Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, said Tehran had “transparent and extensive cooperation” with the agency. 

Moting that Iran receives 22 percent of all IAEA inspections globally, Mr Ravanchi said the agency should focus more attention on Saudi Arabia, which has stated it too intends to pursue uranium enrichment as part of a plan to build civilian nuclear power plants.

“If Saudi Arabia is seeking a peaceful nuclear programme, it should act in a very transparent manner and allow the agency’s inspectors to verify its activities,” Mr Ravanchi said.

The election of Joe Biden as the next American president has offered some hope that the US could return to the nuclear deal, with the president-elect promising Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy”.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country would take “any opportunity” which could “lift the pressure of sanctions from the shoulders of our people”.

Original News : https://news.yahoo.com/saudi-arabia-urges-decisive-stance-104819866.html

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