The United States will allow Russian, Chinese and European firms to continue work at Iranian nuclear sites to make it harder for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, but will impose sanctions on its nuclear entity and top official, sources said on Thursday.
The Trump administration, which in 2018 pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, will let the work go forward by issuing waivers to sanctions that bar non-U.S. firms from dealing with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said the sources on condition of anonymity.
The waivers’ renewal for 60 days will allow non-proliferation work to continue at the Arak heavy water research reactor, the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Tehran Research Reactor and other nuclear cooperation initiatives.
“There was a difference of opinion between the U.S. Treasury and State Department. The Treasury won,” said a Western diplomat familiar with the issue. “There is an appetite for more sanctions so this was a surprise, but others argue that these waivers are vital to ensure non-proliferation.”
A U.S. official confirmed the waivers. The official and diplomat said that Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), and the organisation as a whole would be placed under U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. State was expected to make an announcement later on Thursday.
Washington in November terminated the sanctions waiver related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site.
There had been a great deal of lobbying in Washington to stop the latest waivers as Trump seeks to exert more pressure on Iran. It was not immediately clear why Washington had decided to extend the waivers.
Under the 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of economic sanctions that had crippled its economy.
– The U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran’s nuclear organisation and Tehran’s nuclear chief shows Washington’s despair, said a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, adding that the country’s civilian nuclear programme will continue with full force.
“Imposing sanctions on Ali Akbar Salehi and Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran is a sign of America’s despair and is a political game played by Washington. These sanctions have no value and are childish measures,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told Iran’s Fars news agency.
“Such measures will have no impact on our nuclear programme and Tehran’s civilian nuclear work will continue with full force based on Iran’s needs.”— Reuters