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Iran enriching uranium to bomb-making level, warns nuclear watchdog

Rafael Grossi (R), Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaks during a press conference at the agency's headquarters in Vienna on March 4, 2021 [ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images]
Rafael Grossi (R), Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaks during a press conference at the agency's headquarters in Vienna on March 4, 2021 [ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images]

The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog has warned that Iran is enriching uranium at levels that "only countries making bombs are reaching." Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Financial Times that the situation is "very concerning" because Iran's nuclear programme has become more sophisticated over the past two years,

"Sixty per cent enrichment is almost weapons grade," explained Grossi. "Commercial enrichment is 2.3 per cent."

He acknowledged that Iran has a "sovereign right" to develop its programme, but added that the degree to which it was enriching uranium "requires a vigilant eye." Most measures taken by Tehran could be reversed relatively easily, he pointed out, but the level of research and development that has taken place is an issue.

Read: Why Iran can live without a nuclear deal

"You cannot put the genie back into the bottle; once you know how to do stuff, you know, and the only way to check this is through verification. The Iranian programme has grown, become more sophisticated, so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep activities below the parameters of 2015."

Grossi's comments are likely to spark concerns in Washington and Europe, which are seeking to undo the damage caused by former US President Donald Trump. Two years into his presidency, the 74 year old unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal signed by his predecessor Barack Obama and major world powers.

Read: IAEA will have no access to Iran's nuclear sites images, says top lawmaker

Current US President Joe Biden has been in a race against time to renegotiate a deal with Tehran. On Tuesday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that he was optimistic about reaching an agreement with world powers soon to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, although "serious issues" remain.

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