Iran Steps Up Nuclear Plans As Tensions Rise On Anniversary Of Suleimani Murder | Iran’s nuclear program

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#Iran has announced plans to enrich uranium to 20% purity, close to military grade levels, as tensions with the #United #States escalate in the final days of the presidency of #Donald #Trump.

The #International #Atomic #Energy #Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that it has been informed of #Iran’s decision to increase enrichment at the #Fordow plant, buried on the mountainside to protect it from strikes military, although #Tehran has not indicated when the process will begin.

The weekend also marks the first anniversary of a U.S. drone strike that killed #General #Qassem #Suleimani, with #Washington apparently bracing for possible retaliation.

#After the #United #States stepped up its military deployments and threatening language, #Iranian #Foreign #Minister #Javad #Zarif accused him on #New #Year’s #Eve of trying to create a “pretext for war.”

#In an apparent attempt at de-escalation, the #Pentagon abruptly withdrew the aircraft carrier #Nimitz from the region, the #New #York #Times reported.

US #President-elect #Joe #Biden has made it clear he hopes to revive the 2015 #Iran nuclear deal, known as the #Joint #Comprehensive #Plan of #Action, which was scrapped by #Trump in 2018. The deal limited ‘#Iran to enrich uranium to 3.67%. . #He also called for #Fordow to become a research and development facility.

#Iran began violating the deal in 2019, in response to the US withdrawal and the imposition of sanctions. #But he also signaled a willingness to join the deal, in exchange for sanctions relief.

The IAEA’s #November report, the latest available, said #Tehran still allowed inspections, and although it enriched uranium beyond 3.67%, it did not exceed a threshold of 4.5. %.

#Other signatories to the deal, including the EU, #France, #Germany, the UK, #China and #Russia, have been playing for a long time, hoping the deal could be restored under #Biden.

#German #Foreign #Minister #Heiko #Maas said the change of administration in the #United #States meant there was “one last window” for progress that “should not be wasted.”

#But #Biden will manage a very high-stakes relationship – and attempt to rekindle a still controversial deal in the face of significant opposition in both countries – at a time when the national fight against #Covid is consuming an enormous amount of government time and energy. .

#Iran originally started a 20% enrichment under extremist former #President #Mahmoud #Ahmadinejad, increasing fears it was pursuing a nuclear weapons program, although #Tehran has consistently insisted it did not ‘had only peaceful objectives.

The 2015 deal sought to extend the country’s exit deadline for creating a nuclear weapon from a few months to at least a year. #If #Iran resumes the next level of enrichment, the international tensions that preceded the deal could return.

The latest move came after #Iran’s parliament passed a law following the #November assassination of a top nuclear scientist in an attack blamed on #Israel.

The new law calls on the country to produce at least 120 kg of 20% enriched uranium per year – a key step towards military grade, which is 90% enriched – and to end IAEA inspections aimed at verifying that its program is only peaceful use.

#Ali #Akbar #Salehi, the US-trained leader of the #Civil #Atomic #Energy #Organization of #Iran, offered a military analogy to describe his agency’s readiness to take the next step in uranium enrichment .

“#We are like soldiers and our fingers are on the triggers,” #Salehi told #Iranian national television. “The commander must command and we shoot. #We are ready for it and will produce [20% enriched uranium] #As soon as possible. “

#He said natural uranium in #Fordow’s centrifuges would have to be replaced with 4% enriched material if further enrichment was to continue. “#This should be done under the supervision of the IAEA,” #Salehi added.

#Fordow is nestled in the mountains near the holy city of #Qom, about 90 km southwest of #Tehran.

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