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NUKEWARS
UN confirms Iran compliance to nuke deal
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) June 2, 2017


Iran is still sticking to the 2015 nuclear accord with major powers even as tensions rise between Tehran and US President Donald Trump, a UN atomic watchdog report showed Friday.

Trump has vowed to "dismantle" the "disastrous" deal and has ratcheted up US sanctions, calling for Iran to be isolated and throwing his weight behind Tehran's arch rival Saudi Arabia.

The new International Atomic Energy Agency report, seen by AFP, showed Iran's nuclear activities remain much reduced, making any push to make an atomic bomb much harder than before the agreement.

Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium -- used for peaceful purposes, but when further processed for a weapon -- remained below the agreed limit of 300 kilogrammes (661 pounds), the report said.

The quarterly assessment said Iran "has not pursued the construction of the Arak... reactor" -- which could give it weapons-grade plutonium -- and has not enriched uranium above low purity levels.

Iran's stock of heavy water, used as a reactor coolant, was 128.2 tonnes. Iran has inched above an agreed ceiling of 130 tonnes a number of times since the deal came into force.

The mammoth agreement between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany was agreed in Vienna after years of rising tensions in July 2015 and came into force in January 2016.

It saw Iran substantially reduce its nuclear programme and submit to ultra-close IAEA oversight, making much tougher any "breakout" attempt to make a bomb before the world can react.

CIA names former bin Laden hunt chief to run Iran spying: report
Washington (AFP) June 2, 2017 - The CIA has named the hardline chief of its hunt for Osama bin Laden and head of its lethal drone program to lead Iran operations, the New York Times reported Friday.

The choice of Michael D'Andrea to run the Central Intelligence Agency's spying on Iran is the newest sign of the Trump administration's turn to tougher stance against the Islamic Republic, the Times said, quoting intelligence community sources.

Although officially under cover and not acknowledged by the CIA, D'Andrea, a convert to Islam who is around 60 years old, has been a key figure in the fight against Islamic extremists groups.

He was chief of the agency's Counter-Terrorism Center during the 2000s, in which he oversaw the hunt for Al-Qaeda head bin Laden, who was killed in a US commando raid in Pakistan in 2011.

He also led the Obama administration's controversial "targeted killing" program using drones that left thousands of militants and civilians dead, mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His identity was publicly exposed by the Times in 2015 in the wake of a drone attack on a suspected militant house in Pakistan that killed two Western hostages, an American and an Italian, whose presence in the house had not been known.

That led to his being moved out of the Counter-Terrorism Center that year, according to various news reports at the time.

The choice of D'Andrea to run the CIA's Iran operations was made by Mike Pompeo, who took a hard line against Iran and the Iran nuclear deal as a Republican congressman before President Donald Trump appointed him to be CIA director in January.

Pompeo and D'Andrea could be key to administration attempts to ensure Iran is sticking to its commitments under the nuclear deal, or find violations that would support Trump's campaign pledge to tear up the agreement.

The report Friday also comes after Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, which served to announce a tougher line against Iran while embracing the Saudis and other Arab allies.

The CIA declined to comment on the Times report.

NUKEWARS
US fears nuclear arms race in Asia-Pacific: Australia
Sydney (AFP) May 26, 2017
Senior Trump administration officials fear a nuclear arms race in Asia-Pacific if an increasingly belligerent North Korea is not reined in, Australia's foreign minister said Friday after talks in New York. Pyongyang has launched a series of missiles this year, including a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range projectile this month which the North claimed was capable of carrying a "heavy" nuclear war ... read more

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