Tension as Iran intensifies uranium enrichment

Iran President, Hassan Rouhani
Iran President, Hassan Rouhani

Iran has reportedly increased its nuclear enrichment, after it threatened to violate the 2015 nuclear deal in retaliation for U.S. sanctions.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson for Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said during a televised interview that the country might try to enrich its supply of uranium to 20 per cent purity or more and restart previously deactivated IR-2 M centrifuges, which are used to purify uranium, in the coming months.

The Associated Press (AP) cited energy experts as warning that a 20 per cent purity could bring Iran closer to reaching the 90 per cent processed uranium necessary to make a bomb.

“At the moment, our enrichment is at around 4.5 per cent,” Mr Kamalvandi told the AP in a separate interview.

Global concerns

The announcement has stoked concerns about Iran’s commitment to the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Although President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last year, other Western powers have resolved to stay true to it and promised Iran would receive full support if it does not pull out.

But the escalating tension with the U.S., which led to the downing of an American Navy drone on June 20, has contributed to the erratic implementation of the nuclear deal. Mr Trump also reintroduced and tightened sanctions against Iran.

The unilateral sanctions has hit Iranian economy hard, reducing oil exports, worsening inflation and reducing the value of the Iranian currency by about 60 per cent.

Iran had given the European countries – Britain, France and Germany – which were part of the nuclear deal a 60-day deadline to ensure they continued business with Iran and reduce the effect of the U.S. sanctions. The deadline lapsed last week and Iran consequently decided to enrich uranium beyond the agreed limit and warned of an even stronger “third step” to reducing its compliance.

Iran has “no hope nor trust in anyone nor any country,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the AP. “But the door of diplomacy is open.”

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Mr Trump warned Iran last week to be careful with its nuclear power threats for one reason he was not immediately willing to disclose.

He also reiterated America’s longstanding position that Iran will never be allowed to own a nuclear weapon or gain access to one.

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