Gov’t to raise uranium enrichment beyond nuclear deal limits
Iran announced Sunday it will increase its uranium enrichment to an unspecified level beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, breaking another limit set under the accord and further heightening tensions with the US.
Setting another unspecified 60-day deadline for the deal, Iran raised pressure on European nations while urging further diplomacy to save an agreement that President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US from a year ago.
Hopes for saving the faltering deal appear increasingly dim, however, as the Europeans have been unable to offer Iran any effective way around US sanctions that block Tehran’s oil sales abroad and target its top officials. But Iran’s recent measures, while of concern to nuclear non-proliferation experts, could be easily reversible if Europeans offer Iran the sanctions relief it seeks.
Tensions began rising in May when the US rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast.
Mysterious oil tanker blasts near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran shooting down a US military drone have raised fears of a wider conflict in a region crucial to global energy supplies.
In Sunday’s news conference, Iranian officials said the new level of uranium enrichment would be reached later in the day, but did not provide a percentage. Under the nuclear deal, the cap for enrichment was set at 3.67 per cent, a percentage closely monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
“Within hours, the technical tasks will be done and enrichment above 3.67 per cent will begin,” Iran nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said. “We predict that the IAEA measurements early tomorrow morning will show that we have gone beyond 3.67 per cent.”
The IAEA said it was aware of Iran’s comments and “inspectors in Iran will report to our headquarters as soon as they verify the announced development.”