Vienna: The United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday that Iran has begun producing uranium metal, which completely violated the restrictions stipulated in Tehran’s 2015 agreement with world powers.
The latest violation of the agreement aimed at warning Tehran to develop nuclear weapons comes as Iran warned that the time for the administration of the new US President Joe Biden to save the agreement has come.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement seen by AFP that on February 8, it “verified 3.6 grammes of uranium metal at Iran s Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant in Esfahan”.
IAEA director general Rafael Grossi informed member states of the new violation, the statement added.
The news had been expected after Iran said last month it was researching uranium metal production, aiming to provide advanced fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.
But the topic is sensitive because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons.
The landmark deal — reached in 2015 by the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain — contained a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys”.
The agreement says that in ten years, Iran will be allowed to start research on the production of uranium metal-based fuels in a “small amount agreed upon”, but only if it is approved by other parties.
Iran announced that it will increase its uranium enrichment process to a purity of 20%, which is much higher than the 3.67% level allowed by the exchange, but far below the demand for atomic bombs.
In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear agreement and imposed severe economic sanctions on Tehran. The following year, Tehran announced that it would begin to break the agreement’s restrictions on nuclear activities.
Trump’s successor, Biden, is seeking to restore the agreement, but the two sides appear to be at a stalemate over who will act first.
“If they want Iran to return to its commitments… the United States must entirely lift the sanctions, in practice and not on paper,” supreme Iranian leader Ali Khamenei said Sunday.
When Biden was asked later that day whether he would halt sanctions to convince Iran to return to the bargaining table, Biden offered a clear reply: “No.”
On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “with the new administration in Washington, there is an opportunity to try a new approach, but the current window is fleeting”.
“Soon my government will be compelled to take further remedial action in response to the American and European dismal failure to live up to their commitments under the nuclear deal,” Zarif said in a YouTube video marking the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution.