U.S.: Report of growing Iran nuclear fuel stockpile not ‘major obstacle’ to deal

Story highlights

A new report from the U.N. asessed that Iran had increased its nuclear fuel stockpile by 20% during an interim agreement curbing its program.

A senior Iranian diplomat tells CNN the increase in the nuclear stockpile is a "technical issue" and that the stockpile is set to decrease.

Washington CNN  — 

A senior U.S. official on Tuesday dismissed the notion that recent assessments indicating Iran’s nuclear fuel stockpile had grown were an obstacle to reaching a nuclear deal with Tehran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. watchdog organization, released a report last week saying that Iran’s stockpile had grown during the country’s interim agreement to keep its nuclear program in check during negotiations with the U.S. and five other world powers on a final agreement curbing the program. The New York Times first reported on the IAEA assessment that the stockpile had grown by 20%.

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Asked about the report, the senior U.S. official said it was “fair to say it’s something we’re watching. But the notion that it’s some major obstacle is not accurate.”

The official acknowledged that the U.N. agency’s findings were less than ideal. “But their whole program is less than ideal,” the official added, arguing that Iran is still “in compliance” with the Joint Plan of Action interim agreement.

The IAEA report, however, stated the agency is uncertain about whether Iran is fully complying with the current framework agreement.

“The Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” the report said.

The size of Iran’s nuclear fuel stockpile remains one of the sticking points before the June 30 deadline for a final deal. However, the senior U.S. official pointed to larger areas of concern, such as guaranteeing that inspectors will have access to sites where Iran may be suspected of using its nuclear program for military purposes.

A senior Iranian diplomat involved in the nuclear negotiations told CNN that the increase in the nuclear stockpile was a “technical issue” that the IAEA is aware of.

“At the end of June, the amount of the stockpile will be the same as it was at the time of the interim agreement,” the diplomat said.

State Department spokeswomen Marie Harf said that under the interim agreement, “Iran can fluctuate its numbers in terms of the stockpile. They can go up or they can go down, as long as at the end of a fixed date they are back down below a number.”