Published: Tue, July 09, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Iran passes uranium enrichment cap, official confirms, threatens to restart centrifuges

Iran passes uranium enrichment cap, official confirms, threatens to restart centrifuges

Iran threatened on Monday to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity as its next potential big moves away from a 2015 nuclear agreement that Washington abandoned previous year.

Attention is once again focused on how close Iran could be to a nuclear weapon, after Tehran said it had started enriching uranium to a higher level than agreed in a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by the U.S.

European countries do not directly support the US sanctions, but have been unable to come up with ways to allow Iran to avert them.

In the first major breach of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran announced Monday that it has surpassed the uranium enrichment limit set by the agreement, making good on the country's warning over the weekend.

Iran strongly denied any intention to build nuclear weapons, but before negotiations began it was enriching uranium up to 20% concentration, rapidly stockpiling enriched uranium, and had installed nearly 20,000 centrifuges.

Iran also threatened to abandon more of its commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the landmark 2015 agreement. Berlin also said that it is consulting with other partners to the deal to assess the level of fulfilment of Iran's commitments.

The other five countries involved in the deal have struggled to respond since Iran set a 60-day deadline until early July to negotiate new terms of the accord.

Such threats will put new pressure on European countries, which insist Iran must continue to comply with the agreement even though the United States is no longer doing so.

In a news conference, senior Iranian officials said Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days unless signatories of the pact moved to protect it from USA sanctions, but they left the door open to diplomacy.

Mr Netanyahu opposed the nuclear deal and urged US President Donald Trump to withdraw from it, which he eventually did.

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Deutsche Bank's news helped limit the downbeat sentiment in broader Europe, with the pan-European STOXX 600 index adding 0.07%. In his defense, Powell has said the Fed is an independent bank "insulated from short-term political pressures".

"The limits on amount and level of enrichment of low enriched uranium in #Iran represent voluntary commitments of Tehran under JCPOA", Ulyanikov wrote. Iran had 1,000 of them installed at its large enrichment site at Natanz before the deal was reached. "They better be careful".

Speaking during a live Q&A session on Facebook, the prime minister said "The big question is not what our policy is, because nothing has changed there", and called on European leaders to enact sanctions on Tehran. The Vienna-based agency did not specify how much beyond the threshold Iran has gone.

Trump, who warned "Iran better be careful" on Sunday, canceled a military strike against the country last month after Washington accused Tehran of shooting down an unmanned surveillance drone.

Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.

The future of the pact has been in doubt since US President Donald Trump unilaterally exited a year ago, and reimposed the harsh sanctions that the deal had lifted.

The five other parties to the deal - the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China - could refer the issue to a "joint commission", a process that could ultimately lead to the "snap back" of the United Nations and multilateral sanctions lifted three years ago.

"Trump spoke today by telephone with President Emmanuel Macron of France", the statement said.

Iran says it exercised "strategic patience" for a year after the USA withdrawal, waiting for the remaining partners to make good on promised economic benefits.

Washington began reimposing sanctions on Iran in August 2018 and has targeted crucial sectors including oil exports and the banking system, fuelling a deep recession. "The alternative is very clearly continued escalation ... and at some point, a collision course, that President Trump doesn't want, that Iran doesn't seem to want, but which seems inevitable because of the steps each side is taking".

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