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The U.N. atomic watchdog said Thursday it believes that Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and criticized Tehran for continuing to bar the agency’s officials from accessing or monitoring Iranian nuclear sites.
Watch the briefing in the player above.
State Department officials say that the U.S. “echo concerns that there has been no progress in clarifying and resolving Iran’s outstanding safeguards issues.”
“We urge Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA’s safeguards investigation so that the agency can be confident that all the nuclear material in Iran is under those safeguards,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington Thursday
In its quarterly report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that according to its assessment, as of Oct. 22, Iran has an estimated 62.3 kilograms (137.3 pounds) of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity.
That amounts to an increase of 6.7 kilograms since the IAEA’s last report in September. That enrichment to 60 percent purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. Nonproliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60 percent-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.
The IAEA report, which was seen by The Associated Press, also estimated that as of Oct. 22, Iran’s stockpile of all enriched uranium was at 3673.7 kilograms — a decrease of 267.2 kilograms since the last quarterly report in September.
The Vienna-based IAEA said it was unable to verify the exact size of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium due to limitations that Tehran imposed on U.N. inspectors last year and the removal of the agency’s monitoring and surveillance equipment in June at sites in Iran.
READ MORE: For the first time, Iran acknowledges supplying Russia with drones
It has been nearly two years since IAEA officials have had full access to monitor Iran’s nuclear sites, and five months since the surveillance equipment was removed.
The IAEA’s assessment comes as efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which eased sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program, have stalled.
Meanwhile, Price confirmed that Saudi Arabia has released an American woman it took into custody after she spoke out on her efforts to leave the country with her young Saudi-American daughter.
Carly Morris was taken into custody by Saudi authorities in the north-central city of Buraidah on Monday, according to the Freedom Initiative, a Washington-based advocacy group. Morris has faced Saudi Arabia’s strict laws on male guardianship in her three-year effort to leave the kingdom again with her 8-year-old daughter.
Freedom Initiative says Saudi authorities interrogated Morris about her tweets on the case before releasing her Wednesday.
Meanwhile, soccer fans from Israel and the Palestinian territories will be able to share flights to the World Cup in Qatar in a breakthrough agreement announced by FIFA. The organization says charter flights to Doha from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv for soccer games starting on Nov. 20 will be open to all Palestinians.
This includes residents from the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip who typically cannot travel through Israel’s main airport.
Though Israel and Qatar do not share diplomatic relations, temporary consular service will be set up in Doha for the tournament.
Washington lauded the development and said it will “benefit Israeli and Palestinian soccer fans alike as a step towards expanding greater freedom of travel for all.”
“The United States congratulates FIFA, Israel, and Qatar on the historic step of opening direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha for the duration of the World Cup,” Price said.
Adding, “Today’s announcement is a historic development and an important step that also holds great promise to bolster people-to-people ties and economic relations.”
However, the breakthrough travel arrangement could still fall apart.
The Qatari government said that Doha told Israel that “any escalation in Jerusalem, Gaza or the West Bank during this time will risk the cancellation of the agreement — including the direct flights.”
Violence in the West Bank has surged in recent months as Israel has escalated nightly arrest raids, making 2022 the deadliest in the occupied territory since 2006.
Price addressed a far-right Israeli lawmaker, whose surging popularity helped propel former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back to power in last week’s general election, delivered a glowing tribute Thursday at a memorial event for an extremist rabbi assassinated in 1990.
The lawmaker, Itamar Ben Gvir, has long admired, the late racist rabbi.
Kahane’s violent anti-Arab ideology — which included calls to ban Jewish-Arab intermarriage and for the mass expulsion of Palestinians — was considered so repugnant that Israel banned him from parliament and the United States listed his party as a terrorist group. Kahane was assassinated by an Arab assailant in New York 32 years ago.
The prospect of Ben Gvir’s appointment to a key position in the new government has worried the Biden administration, which issued a stinging rebuke of his appearance at Kahane’s memorial.
“Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent. There is no other word for it,” Price said.
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