Iran is building advanced new centrifuges to enrich uranium
Denton Staff Contributor
Iran has been building advanced new centrifuges to enrich uranium, the UN‘s nuclear watchdog has confirmed, leaving Tehran‘s 2015 nuclear deal hanging by a thread.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said 56 centrifuges had been installed or were being installed at the secretive Natanz plant in Iran.
The equipment has been ‘prepared for testing‘ with uranium hexafluoride, the IAEA said.
Using it to enrich uranium would be a breach of Iran‘s commitments under the 2015 deal, which says Iran can only use more basic first-generation centrifuges.
Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons.
Just yesterday Iran‘s atomic agency chief accused European powers of ‘failing to act on their promises‘ to secure the deal.
Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran had little choice but to shun the deal, which it has done by ramping up enrichment and increasing its uranium stockpile.
The deal began unravelling last year when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the pact negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani.
Washington reimposed sanctions against Iran which had been suspended under the agreement, crippling Iran‘s economy.
Iran has pleaded for help from Europe to dodge the sanctions but efforts by Britain, France and Germany have largely proved unsuccessful.
As a result, Tehran has retaliated by scaling back its commitments under the deal in the hope of forcing Europe to help.
On July 1, it said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond the 300-kilogram limit set by the agreement.
A week later, the Islamic Republic announced it had exceeded the deal‘s uranium enrichment level of 3.67 percent.
On Saturday, Iran‘s Atomic Energy Organisation said it had taken another step by starting up 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 advanced centrifuges, the step now confirmed by the IAEA.
Under the landmark pact, Iran was allowed to enrich uranium using only first generation – or IR-1 – centrifuges.
‘The European Union was supposed to be the replacement of the US but, unfortunately, they failed to act on their promises,‘ Salehi said.
‘Unfortunately the European parties have failed to fulfil their commitments … The deal is not a one-way street and Iran will act accordingly as we have done so far by gradually downgrading our commitments,‘ he said.
France, which has been leading Europe‘s efforts to rescue the nuclear deal, yesterday urged Iran to halt its steps away from the accord.
Emmanuel Macron and Russian leader Vladimir Putin ‘spoke in favour of uniting the efforts of all interested parties in order to preserve the JCPOA and full compliance with it‘, a Kremlin statement said, referring to the deal by its formal name.
The Elysee Palace in Paris said Macron and Putin agreed ‘all concerned parties‘ should act to ‘ease tensions‘.
In a report on August 30, the IAEA said it was continuing to verify compliance through cameras and on-site inspections.
Iranian officials say the text of the nuclear deal allows one party to the deal to cut its commitments if others do not live up to theirs.
Washington has largely dismissed Iran‘s threats and warned of more sanctions. Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons, insisting its atomic programme is for entirely peaceful purposes.
On top of that, tensions between the West and Iran have risen over a series of shipping disputes in recent months.
Washington has blamed Iran for a string of explosions on Gulf oil tankers, but Tehran denied involvement in any of them.
Then on July 4 an Iranian oil tanker was seized by the British territory of Gibraltar, which claimed the ship was delivering crude oil to Syria.
Iran seized the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Middle East two weeks later in what was widely seen as a retaliation.
It sent Middle East tensions escalating alarmingly as both Britain and America beefed up their military presence in the region.
Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic downed a U.S. drone.
The Iranian tanker was released last month but now appears to have headed for Syria after all, fuelling further anger from Washington.
Yesterday state media in Iran said the tanker had berthed on Mediterranean shores and unloaded its cargo, without saying exactly where.
The Stena is still idling at an Iranian port, although Iran said yesterday that it could be released soon.
Experts have warned that a crisis in the critical Strait of Hormuz could endanger the world‘s oil supply.