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7 Jul, 2019 06:56

Iran steps up uranium enrichment over 2015 deal levels, hopes to save accord 'but not at any cost'

Iran steps up uranium enrichment over 2015 deal levels, hopes to save accord 'but not at any cost'

Tehran has announced it will step up its uranium enrichment over the 3.67-percent limit set under the 2015 nuclear accord, warning it will further scale down its commitments if its European partners don’t fulfill theirs.

Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araghchi says Iran will increase uranium enrichment to the level needed for the operation of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant. Officials earlier said the required level is five percent.

Our commitments regarding the level of enrichment were revised, and we are reducing our commitments starting today

The allowed level of uranium enrichment for the country under the 2015 nuclear deal (also known as the JCPOA) is 3.67 percent, which is enough for generating power, but far less than the roughly 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

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Araghchi again criticized his European colleagues for failing to fulfill their commitments under the JCPOA and warned that Tehran will be further stepping away from that agreement "every 60 days" until the situation changes for the better. 

The representative of the Iranian government, Ali Rabiya, also stated that Tehran is making efforts to keep the 2015 nuclear deal working, but not at the country’s expense.

Iran hopes to maintain the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan , but not at any cost, and not at the expense of its national interests

Iran first announced it would speed up production of enriched uranium on May 8, the first anniversary of the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the pact. President Donald Trump claimed last year that Iran violated the deal, contrary to assessment even by its key alllies, like UK and Germany. 

Under JCPOA, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and to accommodate international inspectors, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. When Washington ditched the accord, it put the sanctions back in place and threatened restrictions on anyone who trades with Iran, scaring off investors. Tehran for its part criticized the EU for not doing enough to protect the Iranian economy.

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On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris and Tehran agreed to “explore” dialogue, but also warned of “consequences.” However, in his Sunday address, Araghchi stated that Tehran will no longer recognize the hard-fought JCPOA framework of the P5+1, under which nuclear negotiations were held between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the US, and UK – plus Germany. The minister said that while Tehran is open to suggestions on reviving the nuclear agreement, Washington is welcome to join in only if it lifts all sanctions placed on Iran.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have soured ever since Trump pulled out of the accord. A serious escalation in tensions came in June when Iran downed a US spy drone, claiming it breached its borders. Washington maintained that the aircraft was flying over international waters. Later, Trump said that he ordered a retaliation strike, but called it off at the last minute after he was informed that the death toll would be in the dozens. Before that incident, the US beefed up its military presence in the Middle East, sending an aircraft carrier among other things. Tehran has warned Washington that a war with the Islamic Republic would not be an easy ride.

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