WATCH: State Department holds briefing as reports suggest Iran increased its uranium stockpile

The UN atomic watchdog said Thursday it believes Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and criticized Tehran for continuing to block agency officials from accessing or monitoring the country’s nuclear sites. Iran.

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State Department officials say the United States “echoes concerns that no progress has been made in clarifying and resolving Iran’s outstanding defense issues.”

“We ask Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA safeguards investigation so that the agency can be confident that all of Iran’s nuclear material 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 as of October 22, about 62.3 kilograms (137.3 pounds) of uranium has been enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity, according to its assessment. .

That represents an increase of 6.7 kilograms since the last IAEA report in September. That enrichment to 60 percent purity is one short technical step from military-grade levels of 90 percent. Non-proliferation 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, seen by The Associated Press, also, on October 22, estimated Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium at 3673.7 kilograms – a decrease of 267.2 kilograms from the last quarterly report in September.

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The Vienna-based IAEA said it was unable to verify the exact size of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium because of limits imposed by Tehran on UN inspectors last year and the removal of the agency’s monitoring and surveillance equipment. in June at sites in Iran.

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It has been almost two years since IAEA officials 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, stalled.

Meanwhile, Price confirmed that Saudi Arabia has released an American woman it took into custody after she spoke out about her attempts to leave the country with her young Arab-American daughter.

Saudi authorities took Carly Morris into custody in the central northern city of Buraidah on Monday, according to the Freedom Initiative, a Washington-based advocacy group. Morris faced Saudi Arabia’s strict laws on male guardianship in her three-year attempt to re-enter the kingdom with her 8-year-old daughter.

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The Freedom Initiative says Saudi authorities questioned Morris about her tweets on the case before she was released on 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 matches starting November 20 will be open to all Palestinians.

This includes residents from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip who are blocked and cannot normally travel through Israel’s main airport.

Although Israel and Qatar do not have diplomatic relations, a temporary consular service will be set up in Doha for the tournament.

Washington praised the development and said it will benefit both Israeli and Palestinian soccer fans as a step toward 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 during the World Cup,” Price said.

Adding, “Today’s announcement is a historic development and an important step that holds great promise for strengthening people-to-people ties and economic relations.”

However, the groundbreaking travel arrangement could fall apart.

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The Qatari government said Doha told Israel that “any escalation in Jerusalem, Gaza or the West Bank during this time would risk canceling the agreement – including the direct flights.”

Violence in the West Bank has surged in recent months as Israel ramps up nighttime arrest raids, making 2022 the deadliest territory since 2006.

Price spoke to a far-right Israeli lawmaker, whose growing popularity helped propel former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back to power in last week’s general election, to deliver a loud tribute Thursday at a memorial service for an extremist rabbit who was killed in 1990.

The legislator, Itamar Ben Gvir, has great respect for the late racist rabbi.

Kahane’s violent anti-Arab ideology – including calls to ban Jewish-Arab intermarriage and to expel Palestinians worldwide – was deemed 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 attack in New York 32 years ago.

The prospect of Ben Gvir being appointed to a key post in the new government has worried the Biden administration, which issued a sharp rebuke to his appearance at Kahane’s memorial.

“Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is appalling. There’s no other word on it,” Price said.

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