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Iran is sticking to the nuclear deal says IAEA

Nuclear watchdog says Iran has stayed within caps on uranium enrichment levels, enriched uranium stocks and other items
IAEA says it is able to carry out inspections needed to verify Iran's compliance (AFP)

Iran has remained within the main restrictions on its nuclear activities imposed by a 2015 deal with major powers, a confidential report by the UN atomic watchdog said on Thursday.

In its second quarterly report since President Donald Trump announced in May that the United States would quit the accord and reimpose sanctions, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had stayed within the caps on uranium enrichment levels, enriched uranium stocks and other items.

In its most recent public report in May, the IAEA had said Iran could do more to cooperate with inspectors and thereby "enhance confidence," but stopped short of saying the Islamic Republic had given it cause for concern. Thursday's report to member states seen by Reuters contained similar language.

It said the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog was able to carry out all so-called complementary access inspections needed to verify Iran's compliance with the deal.

"Timely and proactive cooperation by Iran in providing such access facilitates implementation of the Additional Protocol and enhances confidence," said the report, which was distributed to IAEA member states.

"The production rate (of enriched uranium) is constant. There is no change whatsoever," a senior diplomat added.

With the United States re-imposing its sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the nuclear deal, many diplomats and analysts now doubt that the accord will survive despite European Union efforts to counter some of the effects of Trump's move.

The remaining partners - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - have scrambled to save the deal as the US readies to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Sticking to the nuclear accord is not the only way forward for Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday. "Being the party to still honour the deal in deeds & not just words is not Iran's only option," he said on Twitter.

Speaking after the IAEA report was sent to the agency's member states, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the deal was still holding, despite US withdrawal.

The EU implemented a law this month to shield European companies from the impact of US sanctions on Tehran and has approved aid for the Iranian private sector, although large European companies are pulling out of Iran.

Adhering to the deal should bring Iran economic benefits, Zarif said. "If preserving JCPOA (the deal) is the goal, then there is no escape from mustering the courage to comply with commitment to normalize Iran's economic relations instead of making extraneous demands," Zarif wrote on Twitter.

However, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast doubt on the ability of EU countries to save the agreement and said Tehran might abandon it.