France’s ambassador to the United Nations is “extremely concerned” with Iran’s soaring uranium enrichment which he says has progressed at “dramatic rates”.
“The level of threat has increased a lot so it’s time for Iran to get back to compliance and the IAEA reported on that on December 26, again, and documented the violations. So of course we are extremely concerned,” said Nicolas de Rivière in an interview with Iran International.
“We need things to go back on track and the sooner the better,” with the JCPOA nuclear agreement now collapsed. He says that the world is now at a “crossroads” as Iran violates the JCPOA nuclear agreement in “an absolutely massive manner” with enrichment at “unprecedented levels”.
The IAEA announced last week that Iran has reversed a months-long slowdown in the rate at which it is enriching uranium to up to 60% purity, close to weapons grade. While Iran already has enough uranium enriched to up to 60%, if it continues to enrich, it will have the capacity to make three nuclear bombs, and more at lower enrichment levels.
“The enrichment capacity of Iran has increased in a dramatic matter,” de Rivière said. “The so-called breakout time, which was the security deadlines provided by the JCPOA have pretty much disappeared and now Iran is pretty close to enough fissile material to assemble a nuclear device,” a situation he calls “extremely dangerous”.
The US released a statement after the IAEA announcement which said the “findings represent a backwards step by Iran and will result in Iran tripling its monthly production rate of uranium enriched up to 60%”.
However, in keeping with the Biden administration line, the State Department said: “We remain committed to a diplomatic solution and reaffirm our determination that Iran must never develop a nuclear weapon.” Republicans believe a recent deal to free five US-Iranian hostages in return for freeing up $5bn in frozen Iranian funds has emboldened the regime.
De Rivière said the breakdown of the JCPOA and the latest revelations means “we are back to square one”. He said: “The level of the threat is extremely high and I think we should do whatever we can to convince Iran to change its course of action.”
“We should not give up with the talks. I think we should resume talks,” he said, explaining that the framework of the JCPOA itself works, but the need to resume cooperation is critical.
“We should certainly try to have another round of negotiations and see what is feasible. I think as a diplomat, you should never give up on the negotiating and trying to find a solution. So I think it’s very late, but it’s probably not too late.”
The E3, a coalition of the UK, France and Germany, immediately reacted to the latest IAEA news, calling it a “backwards step by Iran” which continues to deny its aims of nuclear weapons.
“The production of high-enriched uranium by Iran has no credible civilian justification and the reported production at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant and the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant further carries significant proliferation-related risks,” the E3 said, calling the revelations “reckless behaviour in a tense regional context”.
While Iran-backed Hamas continues fighting Israel in the Gaza war, sparked by the Hamas massacre of 1,200 mostly civilians on October 7, de Rivière also spoke of the destabilizing activities of Iran’s proxies.
Its largest and most powerful proxy, Hezbollah, is also upping its attacks on Israel’s northern border, while the Yemeni Houthis have just carried out its 23rd attack on shipping in and around the Red Sea since October 19, threatening wider escalation.
The US is leading a more than 20-nation coalition to protect the maritime route, but de Rivière noted that Iran’s proxies are contributing to making the region “dangerous and unstable”.
“Whether with the Houthis or with the Iranian supported groups in Syria and Iraq, the sooner we can bring the crisis in Gaza under control the better because it will probably reduce the tensions in the whole region,” he said, France “very concerned with the risk of spillover of the crisis in Gaza in the whole region”.
France continues to warn the regime not to inflame the tensions further, de Rivière said. “We speak to the Iranians on a regular basis and this is precisely the message we put to the Iranians, don’t mix up with this [Gaza] crisis.”