Iran begins enriching uranium at Fordo plant in nuclear talks, further disruption

Iran has started the uranium enrichment process with advanced centrifuges at its Fordo plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Wednesday, in a further violation of the multilateral nuclear agreement that the Iranians said. world powers are in a hurry to recover.

The UN nuclear watchdog reported that Tehran had started the process of enriching uranium at Fordo, 135 kilometers from Tehran, to 20% purity with a group of 166 advanced IR-6 machines .

The IAEA’s announcement came three days after Iranian and US negotiators met in Vienna for indirect talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after a five-month suspension caused by the election of the president radical Ebrahim Raisi.

Iran has stepped up its violations of the deal – which bans any enrichment for Fordo – since former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and began imposing significant sanctions on the Islamic Republic .

Iran has so far enriched uranium at Fordo, but mostly with less advanced IR-1 machines, the report said, adding that Western negotiators fear Tehran seeks to create facts on the ground as talks in Vienna resume.

Iran has installed 94 more IR-6 machines at Fordo, although it has yet to start operating them, the IAEA said.

Technicians work at the Iranian heavy water reactor in Arak, 150 miles southwest of the capital Tehran, December 23, 2019 (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Nuclear watchdog plans to expand inspections to Fordo – which Iran has dug into a mountain allegedly to protect itself from an imminent attack – following the measures, IAEA report read by Reuters, says taken by Iran.

“The Agency has decided and Iran has agreed to increase the frequency of verification activities at FFEP and will continue consultations with Iran on practical arrangements to facilitate the implementation of these activities,” the report said.

On the second day of the resumption of talks in Vienna this week, EU negotiators said they would assess the “seriousness” of the Iranian position over the next few days to decide whether to continue the recently resumed stimulus talks. of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Without wanting to set “an artificial deadline,” one of the anonymous EU diplomats said at the talks, “we don’t have the luxury of spending time on the niceties.”

“If they don’t show that they are serious about this job, then we will have a problem,” diplomats from E3 countries of Britain, France and Germany said. “The next 48 hours will be very important.

In this round of talks, “we’ve done 70 to 80 percent of the job, but some of the toughest issues are what’s left,” diplomats said.

Diplomats said the issue of Iranian centrifuges remained an unresolved issue.

Iran took a hard line after the first day of talks on Tuesday, suggesting that anything discussed in previous diplomatic rounds could be renegotiated, in direct contradiction to comments made by the EU’s chief negotiator on Monday. , Enrique Mora.

Speaking to Iranian state television, Ali Bagheri, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, called everything discussed so far a mere “project.” It is not clear whether this represented an opening bet by the new Iranian president or signaled serious problems for those hoping to restore the deal.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri arrives at Coburg Palace, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting, in Vienna on November 29, 2021 (Vladimir Simicek / AFP)

Iran maintains that its atomic program is peaceful. However, US intelligence agencies and international inspectors say Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Non-proliferation experts fear that any attempt to approach Tehran will push Tehran to take action. even more extreme in trying to force the West to lift the sanctions.

To complicate matters, UN nuclear inspectors remain unable to fully monitor Iran’s program after Tehran restricted their access. A trip to Iran last week by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, failed to make progress on this issue.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, during a visit to Paris on Tuesday, urged French President Emmanuel Macron to strengthen sanctions against Iran and said “a credible military threat must be exercised”.

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