In this June 6, 2018, file frame from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, three versions of domestically-built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran. (IRIB via AP)

Iran produced 18 kgs of 20 pct enriched uranium in violation of nuclear deal: IAEA

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The UN's atomic watchdog IAEA said on Tuesday Iran has produced 17.6 kg of uranium enriched to up to 20 percent, a step away from producing weapons-grade levels.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by international news agencies AP, AFP and Reuters that as of February 16, Tehran had added 17.6 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent to its stockpile.

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Overall, it increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to 2,967.8 kilograms, up from 2,442.9 kilograms reported on November 2.

“The agency is deeply concerned that undeclared nuclear material may have been present at [an] undeclared location and that such nuclear material remains unreported by Iran under its safeguards agreement,” the IAEA said.

The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms. It also allows enrichment only up to 3.67 percent.

This translates to Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium being more than 14 times over the limit set down in its 2015 nuclear deal.

US-Iran nuclear deadlock

The new IAEA report comes as Washington and Tehran are locked in a standoff over reviving nuclear talks.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has signaled to Iran its willingness to return to talks to revive the nuclear deal Former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Biden reversed Trump’s determination that all UN sanctions against Iran had been restored. And the State Department eased stringent restrictions on the domestic travel of Iranian diplomats in New York.

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Yet, Tehran demanded that all Trump-era sanctions on Iran be lifted before taking any real action to return to the deal.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday Iran might enrich uranium up to 60 percent purity if needed, while repeating a denial of any Iranian intent to seek nuclear weapons, for which 90 percent enrichment would be required.

Iran also decided to restrict site inspections by the UN's nuclear watchdog after a US refusal to lift existing sanctions.

Britain, France and Germany condemned on Tuesday the Iranian decision and said: “We urge Iran to stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency and to ensure full and timely cooperation with the IAEA.”

- With Agencies

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