Iran eyes nuke-pow­ered ships af­ter US sanc­tions

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Iran’s Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani yes­ter­day or­dered the coun­try’s sci­en­tists to start work on nu­clear-pow­ered ships in re­sponse to the ex­pected re­newal of sanc­tions by the United States. In let­ters read out on state tele­vi­sion, Rouhani crit­i­cized the US move as a breach of last year’s nu­clear ac­cord and told Iran’s Atomic En­ergy Or­ga­ni­za­tion to start work on “plan­ning the de­sign and pro­duc­tion of nu­clear fuel and re­ac­tors for mar­itime trans­port.” The pres­i­dent said he had also or­dered the for­eign min­istry to pre­pare a le­gal com­plaint to the in­ter­na­tional com­mit­tee that over­sees the nu­clear ac­cord.

Un­der the deal signed in July 2015, world pow­ers agreed to lift in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions in ex­change for curbs to Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram. But US law­mak­ers re­cently voted to re­new 10-year-old sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion against Iran re­lated not just to nu­clear is­sues, but also bal­lis­tic mis­sile-test­ing and hu­man rights. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is ex­pected to sign the mea­sure into law in the com­ing days, say­ing it makes no dif­fer­ence to last year’s agree­ment be­cause the White House will con­tinue to sus­pend all the sanc­tions linked to Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Ira­nian law­mak­ers had raised the prospect of build­ing nu­clear-pow­ered ships and sub­marines back in 2012 at the height of ten­sions with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity over the nu­clear pro­gram. In­ter­na­tional an­a­lysts said the an­nounce­ment was likely just a bluff, since it would be an ex­tremely costly ef­fort for lit­tle strate­gic gain. Then nu­clear chief Ferey­doon Ab­basi Da­vani said that Iran had the ca­pac­ity to de­sign nu­clear re­ac­tors for ships but no plans to do so. He also said that nu­clear-pow­ered ships did not re­quire the sort of highly en­riched ura­nium which could also be used for weapons.

Agree­ment word­ing am­bigu­ous

Iran has al­ways in­sisted that its nu­clear pro­gram was en­tirely peace­ful, but hoped an end to sanc­tions would help re­vive its bat­tered econ­omy. Al­though it has seen a sig­nif­i­cant boost in oil sales since the deal came into force in Jan­uary, its hopes of at­tract­ing large-scale for­eign in­vest­ment have been thwarted by con­tin­u­ing US sanc­tions in other ar­eas.

The big­gest prob­lem lies with world banks, which are needed to fi­nance the big­ger trade deals but re­main wary of re­turn­ing to Iran, fear­ing they could be fined by Wash­ing­ton. The Iran Sanc­tions Act passed the US Se­nate 99-0 ear­lier this month af­ter eas­ily clear­ing the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Novem­ber. The lan­guage in the nu­clear agree­ment makes it un­clear whether re­new­ing the sanc­tion­sand keep­ing the nu­clear ones sus­pended-amounts to a vi­o­la­tion. At a press con­fer­ence last week, con­ser­va­tive par­lia­ment speaker Ali Lar­i­jani said parts of the deal were “rushed”.

“Some of the sec­tions of the JCPOA should have been writ­ten with more pre­ci­sion to stop dif­fer­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions,” Lar­i­jani said. Rouhani, who is ex­pected to run for a sec­ond term in May, has faced a bar­rage of crit­i­cism from con­ser­va­tives who say his team made too many con­ces­sions for min­i­mal eco­nomic gain. In a speech last week, he em­pha­sized that his team had not acted alone and that supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei was closely in­volved at ev­ery stage of the ne­go­ti­a­tions. “We took no step on the JCPOA is­sue with­out con­sult­ing the hon­or­able leader,” Rouhani said. —AFP

TEHRAN: Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani (right) greets Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Pales­tinian Is­lamic Ji­had, Ra­madan Ab­dul­lah Sha­lah, ahead of their meet­ing in the cap­i­tal Tehran yes­ter­day. —AFP

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