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Iran to continue construction at nuclear site

A nuclear deal with world powers does not require Iran to halt construction at Arak nuclear plant

Published: Updated:

Iran will continue its construction work at a nuclear reactor site, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said on Wednesday after Tehran’s breakthrough deal with world powers to curb its nuclear activity.

“The capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there,” Reuters quoted Zarif as telling parliament in translated comments broadcast on Iran’s Press TV.

The uncompleted heavy-water research reactor emerged as one of several crucial issues in negotiations in Geneva last week, which culminated in Iran agreeing with six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program for six months in return for limited sanctions relief.

Iran said it would not make “any further advances of its activities” on the Arak reactor, according to text of the agreement.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that an apparent gap in the text could allow Tehran to build components off-site to install later in the nuclear reactor.

It was not immediately clear if Zarif was referring to this or other construction activity.

Tehran has said it could open the reactor as soon as next year. It says its purpose is only to make medical isotopes, but Western countries say it could also produce plutonium, one of two materials, along with enriched uranium, that can be used to make the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, the U.S. administration stepped up its battle Tuesday to thwart moves by lawmakers to tighten sanctions on Iran, warning that such an act would jeopardize tough negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program, Agence France-Presse reported.

Secretary of State John Kerry videotaped a message to members of Congress warning against any new sanctions during the six-month period of talks laid down in this week’s deal.

“It does not lift the current architecture of our sanctions. Our sanctions are basically banking and oil sanctions and those sanctions will stay in place,” AFP quoted Kerry as saying in the video.

And he stressed: “We all know that if the agreement falls apart Iran is going to quickly face even tougher sanctions.”

Kerry, and the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, are seeking to head off moves in Congress to draw up new sanctions against Iran.

“The whole world has an interest in making sure that this is a peaceful program,” he added.

(With Reuters and AFP)