Saudi Arabia calls for serious engagement by Iran in negotiations over nuclear programme

Kingdom concerned at Tehran's production of highly enriched uranium

The Riyadh skyline. Saudi Arabia's economy is expected to expand 2.1 per cent this year, the IMF says. Photo: Shuttershock
The Riyadh skyline. Saudi Arabia's economy is expected to expand 2.1 per cent this year, the IMF says. Photo: Shuttershock

Saudi Arabia said it follows with concern the recent developments regarding Iran's nuclear programme and called on Tehran to avert escalation and seriously engage in negotiations with the international community, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The Saudi stance came after Iran said that it will for the first time begin producing highly enriched uranium – purified to 60 per cent from current levels of 20 per cent – in response to Israel's "nuclear terrorism", three days after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility.

"The kingdom calls on Iran to avert escalation and to not expose the regions' security and stability to further tensions," the ministry said.

Riyadh also stressed the importance of the ongoing negotiations in Vienna regarding Iran's nuclear programme.

“We call on Iran to engage seriously in the current negotiations in line with the aspirations of the international community towards Iran's harnessing its nuclear programme for peaceful purposes and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the ministry said.

The Saudis urged the international community to reach an agreement “with stronger parameters of a longer duration”.

“We reiterate the importance of the international community in reaching an agreement that strengthens the monitoring and control measures of the programme.”

Any agreement should, according to Riyadh, prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon or developing the necessary capabilities for it.

Since former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has abandoned all the limits of its uranium stockpile.

It now enriches up to 20 per cent purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent. Iran maintains its atomic programme is for peaceful purposes.

Riyadh said the actions taken by Tehran on Wednesday "cannot be part of a peaceful programme".

The deal must take into account the neighbouring states' "deep concerns over Iran’s escalatory moves that shake the regional security and stability", the ministry said.

Iran's response to increase its uranium produce came as its Natanz nuclear site was allegedly sabotaged on Sunday, an attack Tehran blamed on Israel.

It said 1,000 new centrifuges will be added to the damaged Natanz facility, where the purified material produced would be used for medical purposes.

Meanwhile, The Un nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday that Iran has "almost completed preparations" to start enriching uranium to 60% purity at an aboveground plant at Natanz and plans to add 1,024 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges underground there.

"The Agency today verified that Iran had almost completed preparations to start producing UF6 enriched up to 60% U-235 at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement, referring to uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is fed into centrifuges for enrichment.

This comes as Iran's supreme leader warned against protracted talks on the country's atomic programme, in remarks on the eve of another round of negotiations aimed at reviving a landmark nuclear accord.

"We have to be careful" that the dialogue is not conducted "in a way that parties drag (out) the negotiations, as that is harmful for the country," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks broadcast by state television on Wednesday.

The supreme leader also warned that Iran had to be wary of the Americans during the negotiations.

Updated: April 14, 2021 09:59 PM


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