NEW YORK: The United States said on Friday it would buy heavy water from Iran despite angry claims at home that it has already gone too far in granting Tehran nuclear sanctions relief.
Officials said the purchase would cost $8.6 million, even as Republican lawmakers pressed for Iran to be excluded from any use of the US dollar or financial system.
The deal was announced as Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet his Iranian counterpart to discuss ways of ensuring Tehran benefits from the nuclear deal it signed last year.
Kerry was to see Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations as the agreement came under sustained attack from critics in both countries.
Hardliners in Tehran argue that President Hassan Rouhani has been tricked into surrendering control of Iran’s nuclear programme without getting much in return.
And in Washington, President Barack Obama’s critics claim he plans to allow an unreformed Iran access to US finance despite separate sanctions remaining in place.Nevertheless, the State Department said the United States will buy 32 tonnes of heavy water from Iran.
“This transaction provides US industry with a critical product, while also enabling Iran to sell some of its excess heavy water,” spokesman John Kirby said.
Kirby said the purchase came after Iran met its obligations under the nuclear accord implementation process, known as the “JCPOA.”
“Our purchase of the heavy water means that it will instead be used for critically important research and non-nuclear industrial requirements,” he said.
“Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA meant that this material had already been removed from Iran, ensuring it would not be used to support the development of a nuclear weapon.” The heavy water purchase immediately came under attack in Washington as another concession to Tehran and a crack in the wall barring Iran from the US financial system.
“Once again, the Obama administration is handing Iran’s radical regime more cash,” declared Ed Royce, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee.
“US purchase of this sensitive material goes well beyond what is required by the nuclear agreement. “House Speaker Paul Ryan did not mince his words.
“This purchase — part of what appears to be the administration’s full-court press to sweeten the deal — will directly subsidize Iran’s nuclear program,” he said. “It’s yet another unprecedented concession to the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.”
“Regardless of whether or not this is in US dollars, this licensed transaction is limited in scope,” he said.