Iran has accelerated the rate at which it’s enriching low-grade uranium four-fold, weeks after threatening to gradually scale back its commitments under a 2015 deal meant to prevent it from developing a nuclear bomb.The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, an official at Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, as saying that Iran had increased its output of 3.67% enriched uranium as of Monday, and that the United Nations nuclear watchdog had been informed. The number of active centrifuges has not been raised, it added. Crucially, Iran hasn’t increased the level to which it is enriching beyond the agreed limit.
“This issue does not mean that there is an increase in the purity of the material or that there’s an increase in the number of centrifuge machines or that there’s a change in the type of centrifuges,” Kamalvandi said, according the Tasmin.
Tehran has already announced it stopped complying with a 300-kilogram cap on the storage of enriched uranium and heavy water imposed by the multilateral accord, and said it would abandon limits on uranium enrichment unless Europe throws it an economic lifeline within 60 days, setting an ultimatum for the survival of the landmark agreement.
Tensions in the Gulf have spiked since the U.S. stopped granting waivers to buyers of Iranian oil early this month, tightening sanctions slapped on the Islamic Republic after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal a year ago.
With an economic crisis looming, Iran announced on May 8 it would gradually withdraw from the agreement unless the remaining parties find a way to ease its pain. That was followed last week by so far unexplained sabotage attacks against four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, heading toward the Gulf and a drone attack by Iran-backed Yemeni rebels against Saudi pumping stations, which forced the temporary suspension of an east-west pipeline.
On Wednesday, the U.S. cited growing yet unspecified threats as it ordered the departure of non-emergency staff from Iraq, where Iran provides material and political support to several powerful militias.
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