Iran makes nuclear push despite talks to save the 2015 deal

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  • Iran begins to enrich Fordow with advanced machines
  • The move comes shortly after talks resume to revive the deal
  • The West fears that Iran will create facts on the ground in order to exert influence
  • According to the IAEA report, the agency plans to step up inspections

VIENNA, December 1 (Reuters) – Iran has started producing enriched uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, the UN Atomic Watch said on Wednesday, undermining the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran during talks with the West about austerity measures it.

The announcement appeared to undermine indirect talks between Iran and the United States to fully reintegrate both into the tarnished deal, which resumed this week after a five-month hiatus due to the election of hard-line president Ebrahim Raisi.

Western negotiators fear that Iran will create facts on the ground to influence the talks.

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On the third day of this round of talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to up to 20% purity with a cascade or cluster of 166 advanced IR-6 machines in Fordow. These machines are far more efficient than the first generation IR-1. Continue reading

To underline how deeply undermined the deal is, this pact does not allow Iran to enrich uranium in Fordow at all. So far, Iran has produced enriched uranium there with IR-1 machines and enriched it with some IR-6 without keeping the product.

It has 94 IR-6s installed in a cascade in Fordow that is not yet operational, the IAEA said in a statement.

A more comprehensive IAEA report, distributed to member states and viewed by Reuters, said that due to the Iranian move, the nuclear watchdog had planned to step up inspections at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), where the centrifuges are located but the details have yet to be ironed out.

Iran has downplayed the report as routine, although the IAEA, which does not explicitly justify such reports, usually only issues them on significant developments such as new violations of the agreement’s nuclear restrictions.

“The latest IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear activities is a common update in line with the regular review in Iran,” Iran’s permanent mission to the UN agencies in Vienna said on Twitter.

However, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi made it clear that he was concerned about developments.

“This doubles the warning. It is not banal. Iran can do it, but if you have such ambitions, you have to accept inspections. It is necessary,” Grossi told French broadcaster France 24.

Iran and the great powers are trying to revive the 2015 agreement by which Tehran capped its nuclear program in exchange for easing US, EU and UN economic sanctions.

The then US President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018 and again imposed harsh US sanctions, which angered Iran and upset the other parties: Great Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

This week’s indirect talks between Tehran and Washington – others are shuttling between them because Iran refuses to meet US officials – made no visible progress.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday accused Israel of “spreading lies to poison the talks”. Continue reading

While it was unclear what the spokesman was referring to, a Tel Aviv-based reporter for US news organization Axios reported Monday that Israel had exchanged information with Washington and European allies suggesting Iran is taking technical steps to get on to prepare uranium enrichment to 90% purity, the level required for a nuclear weapon.

Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

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Additional reporting from John Irish in Doha, letters from Francois Murphy and Arshad Mohammed; Adaptation by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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