Iran Advances in Uranium Enrichment Amid Nuclear Deal Negotiations

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Iran Advances in Uranium Enrichment Amid Nuclear Deal Negotiations

Iran began enriching uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at the Fordow plant, as disclosed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Wednesday (1), undermining the 2015 nuclear agreement, whose negotiations with the West were resumed this year. week.

The announcement by the UN body responsible for overseeing Iranian installations appears to undermine talks aimed at bringing Washington and Tehran back to the pact — talks have been on hold for five months after the election of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi in Iran .

The conversations, which reached the third day on Wednesday, come amid widespread skepticism. The initial expectation was to save the 2015 pact, abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in 2018. Since then, Iran has violated the treaty — the country claims to want to enrich uranium for civil use only.

Diplomats from Iran, the UK, China, Germany, Russia and France are present, but the talks are at heart indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington, as the country refuses to sit at the table with a US emissary.

Iran’s negotiating team has set demands that Americans and Europeans deem unrealistic, according to Western representatives. The country is demanding the lifting of all sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union since 2017, including those unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program.

The suspension of these measures was something foreseen in the 2015 agreement in exchange for strict limits on the Persian country’s nuclear program.

With the new production, Western negotiators fear that the Persian country is creating reasons to gain an advantage in the talks, which reached their third day on Wednesday. The IAEA reported that Iran has begun enriching uranium to 20% with 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow, a site embedded in a mountain.

The 2015 deal does not allow Iran to enrich uranium in this plant, a sign of how degraded the pact is. Until now, the country had produced the material on site with IR-1 machines and some IR-6 machines, but without storing it. There are still 94 IR-6 machines installed at Fordow that are not in operation, according to an IAEA statement.

A broader report from the IAEA distributed among member states of the agency and to which Reuters had access pointed out that as a result of this move in Iran, the entity plans to increase inspections at the Fordow plant, but the details have yet to be worked out.

Tehran downplayed the report as routine, although the IAEA, which does not give clear reasons for the existence of such documents, normally publishes them only when there are important developments such as further breaches of the agreement’s restrictions.

“The IAEA’s recent report on Iran’s nuclear activities is a regular update in line with its regular check on Iran,” Tehran’s permanent UN mission wrote on social media.

At another point of tension, the Iranian chancellor’s spokesman accused Israel on Wednesday of trumpeting lies to disrupt negotiations. It was unclear what he was referring to, but a reporter for the Tel Aviv-based US website Axios reported on Monday that Israel had shared intelligence information over the past two weeks with US and European allies suggesting that Tehran was technically preparing to get rich 90% pure uranium, the grade needed to develop a nuclear weapon.

In recent months, Iran has begun enriching uranium to unprecedented levels and has restricted the activities of IAEA inspectors, but the limits imposed by the agreement had already been exceeded since Trump withdrew the US from the pact.

The agency’s director, Rafael Grossi, visited Tehran last week with the hope of broaching several points of disagreement between the agency and Iran. Not to make matters worse, Western diplomats decided not to press for a critical Iran resolution last week during the IAEA council of ministers meeting.

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