In this Thursday, July 4, 2019, photo made available by U.S. Navy, two F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW 7) drop 1000-pound general-purpose bombs during an Independence Day air power demonstration next to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in Arabian Sea. The USS Abraham Lincoln was rushed to the Mideast amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran as its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers unravels. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Sherman/U.S. Navy via AP)

In this Thursday, July 4, 2019, photo made available by U.S. Navy, two F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW 7) drop 1000-pound general-purpose bombs during an Independence Day air power demonstration next to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in Arabian Sea. The USS Abraham Lincoln was rushed to the Mideast amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran as its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers unravels. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Sherman/U.S. Navy via AP)

Iran to raise uranium enrichment beyond nuclear deal limits

Tensions began rising in May when the U.S. rushed thousands of additional troops to the Mideast.

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 furthering heightening tensions with the U.S.

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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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%, a percentage closely monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.

“Within hours, the technical tasks will be done and enrichment above 3.67% 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%.”

ALSO READ: Pompeo says US ready to talk to Iran with ‘no preconditions’

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.”

Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made remarks in a video Saturday about Iran’s need for 5% enrichment. Bushehr, Iran’s only nuclear power plant, is now running on imported fuel from Russia that’s enriched to around 5%.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini outlining the steps it had taken, said Abbas Araghchi, a deputy foreign minister. Discussions with European powers are continuing and ministerial-level talks are planned later this month, he said.

“We will give another 60-day period, and then we will resume the reduction of our commitments,” Araghchi said, without elaborating.

On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, in a phone call that he is trying to find a way by July 15 to resume the dialogue between Iran and Western partners.

Germany expressed concern over Sunday’s announcement, while Britain called on Iran to reverse course and abide by the nuclear deal. The European Union said parties to the nuclear deal are discussing a possible emergency meeting.

Kamalvandi stressed that Iran will continue to use only slower, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to increase enrichment, as well as keep the number of centrifuges in use under the 5,060-limit set by the nuclear deal. Iran has the technical ability to build and operate advanced centrifuges that work faster but is barred from doing so under the deal.

“For the enrichment we are using the same machines with some more pressure and some special technical work,” he said. “So we don’t have an increase in the number of centrifuges for this purpose.”

But Kamalvandi stressed that Iran is able to continue enrichment “at any speed, any amount and any level.”

Sunday’s announcement about uranium enrichment came a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal. Iran has repeatedly warned Europe in recent weeks that it would begin walking away from an accord neutered by a maximalist American campaign of sanctions.

The decision to ramp up uranium enrichment came less than a week after Iran acknowledged breaking the deal’s 300-kilogram (661-pound) limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile.

Experts warn higher enrichment and a growing stockpile narrow the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material for an atomic bomb, something Iran denies it wants but the deal prevented.

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

International reaction came swiftly, including from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who long has described Iran and its nuclear program as a threat to his country. He called on world powers to impose “snapback sanctions” on Iran.

“It is a very, very dangerous step,” Netanyahu said. “I’m asking you, not to provoke but out of joint knowledge of history and what happens when aggressive totalitarian regimes can cross the threshold toward things that are very dangerous to us all. Take the steps that you promised. Enact the sanctions.”

___

Associated Press writers Kiyoko Metzler in Vienna and Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Jon Gambrell And Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read