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Iran exceeds threshold of enriched uranium allowed under nuclear deal

Published: Updated:

Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile has passed the 300 kilogram limit under its nuclear deal, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday, citing an unnamed “informed source.”

Iranian officials have said in recent days that the Islamic Republic is on track to pass the enriched uranium limit, which was set under its nuclear deal, after remaining signatories to the pact fell short of Tehran’s demands to be shielded from US sanctions.

Enriching uranium to a low level of 3.6 percent fissile material is the first step in a process that could eventually allow Iran to amass enough highly-enriched uranium to build a nuclear warhead.

Last Wednesday, the IAEA verified that Iran had roughly 200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, just below the deal’s 202.8 kilograms limit, three diplomats who follow the agency’s work told Reuters. On Monday, the IAEA was not immediately available for comment.

After talks on Friday in Vienna, Iran said European countries had offered too little in the way of trade assistance to persuade it to back off from its plan to breach the limit, a riposte to US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to quit the deal and reimpose economic sanctions.

The deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions against Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear work aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, from roughly 2-3 months to a year.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, including generating power.

In May, Washington piled pressure on Tehran by ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil, and tensions have been growing in the Gulf ever since.

Washington has dispatched extra forces to the Middle East, and US fighter jets came within minutes of conducting air strikes on Iran last month after Tehran downed an unmanned American drone.

In a speech on Monday broadcast live on state TV, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said: “Iran will never yield to pressure from the United States ... If they want to talk to Iran, they should show respect ...

“Never threaten an Iranian ... Iran has always resisted pressure, and has responded with respect when respected.”

Trump has called for negotiations with Iran with “no preconditions”, but Tehran has ruled out talks until the United States returns to the nuclear pact and drops its sanctions.

UN inspects

Inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog are verifying whether Iran has accumulated more enriched uranium than allowed under its deal with major powers, the agency said on Monday, after Iranian sources told Reuters and other media said this was the case.

“We are aware of the media reports related to Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU),” an International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman said. “Our inspectors are on the ground and they will report to headquarters as soon as the LEU stockpile has been verified.”

Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium has exceeded the maximum amount allowed by its nuclear deal with world powers, according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) obtained by Reuters.