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No heavy water for US without upfront payment: Iran’s atomic agency

31 May 2016 6:44



The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) says the delivery of the country’s surplus heavy water to the United States is conditional on Washington making full payment in advance.

Speaking on the sidelines of a ceremony held to sign a cooperation agreement between the AEOI and Oil Ministry, Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday the precautionary measure is taken in the wake of an April US Supreme Court ruling, which authorized the confiscation of around USD two billion in frozen Iranian assets, to ensure such future ploys by the US are neutralized.

The court ruled on April 20 that Iran’s assets frozen in a bank account should be turned over to the American families of those killed in a 1983 bombing in Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran. Tehran has denied any role in the attacks. The money, which belongs to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), had been blocked under US sanctions before the court ruling.

Last month, the US government completed an $8.6-million deal to buy 32 metric tons of heavy water from Iran. On May 25, 251 American lawmakers at the US House of Representatives voted for a bill that would prohibit such purchases next year. The measure is yet to be approved by the US Senate.

“Following the seizure of Iran’s assets, I asked my AEOI colleagues to refrain from delivering the heavy water consignment… because it was probable that the US would confiscate the shipment and make no payment,” Salehi said.

He went on to say that the seizure of Iran’s assets added to the depth of Tehran’s longstanding “distrust” of Washington.

As required by Iran’s nuclear agreement with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, France, Britain, China and Russia – plus Germany, Tehran is obliged to keep its heavy water stockpile below 130 tons and offer the surplus for sale on international markets, the AEOI director said, adding, “This does not mean that if there is no buyer, we will stop producing and stockpiling heavy water.”

Last week, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi also downplayed the vote by the US House, saying “neither the US nor any other country is obligated to buy heavy water from Iran” in line with the nuclear agreement.

(L-R) China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry pose for a picture during the final press conference of nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015. ©AFP

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which took effect in January six months after conclusion in Vienna, all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union, the UN Security Council and the US would be lifted. Iran has, in return, put some limitations on its nuclear activities.

Heavy water deal with Russia

Salehi said an Iranian delegation visited Russia last week to hold talks for the sale of 40 tons of excess heavy water to Moscow. Citing “progress” in the negotiations, he said a final contract is yet to be finalized.

Earlier in the day, Vladimir Voronkov, Russia’s permanent representative at Vienna-based international organizations, announced that the country’s nuclear agency Rosatom would buy heavy water from Iran.

The Iranian official also said Tehran and Moscow “are cooperating in the field of stable isotope production in Fordow.”

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