The European Union has warned Iran’s move to enrich uranium to 20 percent would be a “considerable departure” from Tehran’s commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal and would have “serious nuclear non-proliferation implications”, as the US accused Tehran of “nuclear extortion”.
Iran resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear facility on Monday, according to its government spokesman.
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That would be well above the 3.67 percent cap set in the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Later on Monday, the EU spokesman Peter Stano said Brussels would wait until a briefing from the director of the UN’s nuclear watchdog (IAEA) later in the day before deciding what action to take.
“If this announcement is going to be implemented … it would constitute a considerable departure from Iran’s nuclear commitments under the JCPOA,” Stano told reporters.
The US State Department said in a statement that the move was an attempt at “extortion” that would not succeed.
“Iran enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordow is a clear attempt to increase its campaign of nuclear extortion, an attempt that will continue to fail,” the statement said.
“The United States and the international community will continue to look to IAEA inspectors to report the facts on the ground.”
Reacting to the news, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran will not be allowed “to manufacture nuclear weapons”.
“Iran’s decision to continue violating its commitments, to raise the enrichment level and advance the industrial ability to enrich uranium underground, cannot be explained in any way except as the continued realisation of its intention to develop a military nuclear program,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear programme to levels well under the capacity to build atomic bombs in return for sanctions relief from the international parties to the accord. In 2018, the United States pulled out of the agreement.
Israel has fiercely argued against the 2015 deal.