EU worried about Iran enrichment, aims to save nuclear accord

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif shakes hands with High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell in Tehran, Iran, February 3, 2020. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The European Commission said on Tuesday it regretted that Iran has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact, but believed that the accord was worth saving.

“We are highly concerned by the measures taken by Iran. This action is in breach of Iran’s nuclear commitments and will have serious implications,” a spokesman for the Commission told a regular briefing, according to Reuters.

“It is regrettable but it is also highly important and … that we maintain the agreement,” he said.

Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabeie said on Monday that it had resumed 20% uranium enrichment at Fordow enrichment complex.

The move is the latest Iranian contravention of the accord, which it started violating in 2019 in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018 and the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions that had been lifted under the deal.

The step was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in response to the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on Israel. Such moves by Iran could hinder attempts by the incoming Biden administration to rejoin the deal.

The deal’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

Iran had earlier breached the deal’s 3.67% limit on the purity to which it can enrich uranium, but it had only gone up to 4.5% so far, well short of the 20% level and of the 90% that is weapons-grade.

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