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UN: Iran Complying With Letter of Nuclear Deal, Not Necessarily Spirit

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE -- This Oct. 27, 2004, file photo, shows the interior of the Arak heavy water production facility in Arak, 360 kms southwest of Tehran, Iran.

FILE -- This Oct. 27, 2004, file photo, shows the interior of the Arak heavy water production facility in Arak, 360 kms southwest of Tehran, Iran.

One year after the six major world powers and Iran agreed on a deal to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon, the U.N. says Iran has complied with the letter of the deal, but not always the spirit.

In a report on the implementation of U.N. resolution 2231, which endorsed the agreement (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) and called on the international community to support its implementation, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he "is encouraged by Iran's implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA."

He said the U.N. nuclear watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency — continues to verify and monitor Iran's implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the deal. Ban noted that some activities, however, could be inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement.

The U.N. chief also wrote in his report that Tehran has told him it feels it has yet to "fully benefit" from the lifting of international and national sanctions, particularly those imposed by the United States and European Union.

Lingering concerns

The secretary-general's report raised some concerns regarding Iran's ballistic missile activities, as well as the possible transfer of weapons to rebels in Yemen.

The U.N. Security Council was divided over whether the early March ballistic missile launches during military exercises constituted a clear violation of resolution 2231. Iran has argued they did not violate it. Several council members said that while the launches were not violations of the JCPOA, they were "inconsistent" with resolution 2231.

FILE - In this photo obtained from the Iranian Fars News Agency, a Qadr H long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile is fired by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, during a maneuver, in an undisclosed location in Iran, March 9, 2016.

FILE - In this photo obtained from the Iranian Fars News Agency, a Qadr H long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile is fired by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, during a maneuver, in an undisclosed location in Iran, March 9, 2016.

"While it is for the Security Council to interpret its own resolutions, the secretary-general stressed that we must maintain the momentum created by the conclusion of the JCPOA, consistent with its constructive spirit," Feltman said. "In this regard, he calls upon Iran to avoid such ballistic missile launches, which have the potential to increase tensions in the region."

The secretary-general also expressed concern in his report about a seizure of weapons by the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Oman in March. The United States alleges the arms — which included 1,500 Kalashnikov rifles and 200 rocket-propelled grenades and launchers — originated in Iran and were likely headed to Yemen, where Iran is backing Shiite Houthi rebels against the Sunni Saudi-backed government. Last year, the council imposed an arms embargo against the Houthi rebels.

France has also notified the council that its sailors encountered and boarded a ship in the Northern Indian Ocean in March that contained a large arms cache, which it believes was likely headed for Yemen and Somalia.

"We think that it is important for the stability of the region for Iran to abstain from any destabilizing and dangerous activity," French ambassador François Delattre said.

The secretary-general's report also expressed worry about a possible violation of an existing travel ban against the commander of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force, Major General Qasem Soleimani. It was widely reported that the general traveled to Iraq in May.

FILE - Weapons were seized from a stateless dhow which was intercepted by the Coastal Patrol ship USS Sirocco in the waters of the Arabian Sea on March 28, 2016.

FILE - Weapons were seized from a stateless dhow which was intercepted by the Coastal Patrol ship USS Sirocco in the waters of the Arabian Sea on March 28, 2016.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council that no one should turn a "blind eye" to these activities. "Implementation is everything," she said, urging resolution violations or inconsistencies to be documented and condemned.

Iranian response

Iran "categorically rejects" allegations that it sought to deliver arms to Yemen, according to the secretary-general's report.

The government also complained that a U.S. court order allowed some $1.8 billion of its assets to be seized after the nuclear deal's implementation day, and that it does not have access to another $1.7 billion held in Luxemburg.

The Iranian nuclear deal agreed upon last July ended international sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran reducing its enriched uranium stockpile and putting its nuclear program under international inspection. Should Iran fail to meet its obligations, sanctions will "snap back" into place, according to the Obama administration.

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