Date
9 January 2020
An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. File photo: Reuters
An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. File photo: Reuters

Iran says will abandon limitations on uranium enrichment

Iran announced on Sunday that it will abandon limitations on enriching uranium, taking a further step back from commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, Reuters reports.

Citing state television, the report said Iran will not respect any limits set down in the pact on the country’s nuclear work: whether the limit on its number of uranium enrichment centrifuges to its enrichment capacity, the level to which uranium could be enriched, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium or Iran’s nuclear Research and Development activities.

“Iran will continue its nuclear enrichment with no restrictions …. and based on its technical needs,” the government was quoted as saying.

However, the country will continue to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog.

Iran had been expected to announce its latest stance on the deal this weekend. But the announcement coincided with a major escalation of hostilities with Washington following the US killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike on Friday in Baghdad.

Iran has steadily overstepped the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the accord in 2018 and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s oil trade.

Under the nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions.

Relations between Tehran and Washington sharply deteriorated after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the deal. Iran has criticized European powers for failing to salvage the pact by shielding its economy from US sanctions.

Sunday’s statement said Tehran can quickly reverse its steps if US sanctions are removed.

Washington says the “maximum pressure” campaign it started after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement will force Iran to negotiate a more sweeping deal, covering its ballistic missile program and its role in Middle Eastern conflicts. Iran says it will not negotiate a new deal.

Tehran has rejected Western assertions that it has sought to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has already breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities, including on the purity to which it enriches uranium, its stock of enriched uranium, which models of centrifuge it enriches uranium with and where it enriches uranium.

It has, however, not gone far over the purity allowed – the deal sets a limit of 3.67 percent and Iran has stayed around 4.5 percent in recent months, well below the 20 percent it reached before the deal and the roughly 90 percent that is weapons-grade.

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