Iran says United Nations panel’s decision to keep nuclear freeze ‘is not supported by international law’

Iran on Friday dismissed an appeals committee’s “surprising” decision to maintain a freeze on its nuclear program in an escalating row with the U.N.’s atomic watchdog.

The 48-member International Atomic Energy Agency appeals committee upheld the IAEA’s November decision that Iran stay off all its nuclear-related activities – including enriching uranium, enriching it to more than 3.67 percent purity, assembling nuclear warheads and conducting nuclear research and development – for at least a year.

The delay is aimed at a U.S. decision to reimpose wide-ranging economic sanctions on Iran, which is now part of the global sanctions regime.

Iran has suggested the decision imposed by the appeals committee is aimed at blocking it from negotiating a new nuclear agreement.

The committee said it was unable to take into account those aspects of the IAEA’s report on Iran that raised concern and therefore upheld the freeze, U.N. diplomats told The Washington Post.

The diplomat did not elaborate. An IAEA spokesman could not be reached for comment.

But foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the appeals committee decision “falls outside the rules of international law,” according to the state news agency IRNA.

The committee “made such a surprising decision that we need to explain our stance to the agency’s Board of Governors,” Ghasemi said.

Iran’s move to maintain the freeze is likely to further complicate U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to establish a united front on Iran, which the United States views as one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism.

Tillerson earlier this week hosted a meeting in London of 34 foreign ministers, telling them that America is done criticizing Iran. “So we will be sitting down shortly to produce a joint plan of action” to counter Iran, he said.

The IAEA refers to the earlier IAEA report on Iran as a “snapback” report, because it marks the first time the international body has taken all steps necessary to lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran as a result of its nuclear agreement with the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.

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