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Iran challenges West by enriching uranium to 'irreversible' level

IAEA Flag [iaea.org]
IAEA Flag [iaea.org]

A report issued yesterday by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has revealed the latest Iranian escalation against the West just a week after the EU announced a halt to negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme due to "external factors".

The Iranians have, it appears, enriched uranium to an "irreversible" level close to what is needed for a nuclear weapon, Reuters has reported.

It is not clear the extent to which this step will affect the progress of the negotiations on the nuclear issue. Talks have been taking place in Vienna in an effort to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed by Tehran with the US, France, Britain, Russia and China, plus Germany and the EU. The US pulled out of the deal unilaterally in 2018. However, the EU revealed last Friday, that the talks had to stop.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed during his meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday that Russia had received "written guarantees" from the US regarding the Iran nuclear deal, and that sanctions would not hinder dealing with this issue. Moscow wants the talks to resume, but according to Amir-Abdollahian, Tehran believes that "the ball is now in the American court more than ever." The Iranian minister called on Washington to provide "the answers necessary for a successful conclusion of the negotiations."

READ: US, Iran give conflicting updates progress of nuclear talks 

However, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price, the US denied providing guarantees to Russia regarding the Iranian nuclear agreement. Price said that Washington will not allow Moscow to use the nuclear agreement to escape the sanctions imposed on it following its attack on Ukraine last month. The US guarantees, he pointed out, are related to the technical nuclear aspect in which Russia is cooperating under the deal. The US will not impose sanctions on Russia in connection with the Iranian nuclear projects within the terms of the agreement.

The Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, had announced last Thursday, one day before Europe announced the halt of negotiations with Tehran, that the Vienna negotiations to revive the JCPOA were "getting knottier by the hour" in the absence of a political decision from Washington. "The US approach to Iran's principled demands, coupled with its unreasonable offers and unjustified pressure to hastily reach an agreement, show that it isn't interested in a strong deal that would satisfy both parties," he tweeted.

The 2015 JCPOA imposed restrictions on Tehran's programme to prevent its production of nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

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