If deal fails, Iran threatens to enrich uranium beyond accord’s limitations
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If deal fails, Iran threatens to enrich uranium beyond accord’s limitations

Spokesman for Tehran's atomic energy organization says Fordo facility prepared for go-ahead from supreme leader

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A satellite image from September 15, 2017, of the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)
A satellite image from September 15, 2017, of the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

An Iranian atomic official threatened Wednesday that should a landmark nuclear deal with world powers fall apart, his country will be ready to begin uranium enrichment beyond the limitations set by the agreement at one of its nuclear facilities and install new equipment at another.

Following the US withdrawal last month from the 2015 agreement, the other partners to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have all said they want to maintain the pact with Iran. Responding to the US exit, Tehran has repeatedly declared it will ramp up its uranium enrichment capabilities, but stopped short of saying it will begin higher enrichment than allowed for by the agreement.

Tehran is keen to stay in the deal, which saw heavy economic sanctions lifted in return for curbs on the weapons-capable aspects of its nuclear program, but has warned non-US partners that they must do their part to convince Iran to remain.

A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said in an interview published Wednesday by the Young Journalists’ Club (YJC), and picked up by Reuters, that if Iran will be forced to withdraw from the nuclear deal it will begin uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility and install new equipment at its Natanz site.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, in an interview with the Iranian Arabic-language al-Alam TV network on March 5, 2018. (Screen capture)

Kamalvandi said the decision to ramp up uranium enrichment beyond the current limits was in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Currently the supreme leader has ordered that the programs be carried out within the parameters of the nuclear deal,” Kamalvandi said, according to an English translation of his comments reported by Reuters. “And when he gives the order we will announce the programs for operating outside of the nuclear deal for reviving Fordo.”

He did not specify what equipment will be installed at the Natanz site.

Kamalvandi’s announcement appeared geared toward putting pressure on western European partners to remain in the deal. Washington has said that the US will slap severe sanctions on Iran to force it into signing an updated and more restrictive version of the 2015 agreement. Britain, France and Germany have asked the US to grant them an exemption from economic sanctions that are expected to prevent countries from trading with Iran. Without the exemptions, the countries will be hard pressed to maintain the nuclear deal.

Kamalvandi also complained that the US and Western countries are pressuring Iran over its nuclear program, which he insisted is entirely peaceful, while remaining passive about Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal.

“The West doesn’t criticize the Zionist regime and have even helped them,” Kamalvandi said in the interview. “Without the help of the West and America this regime could never have obtained nuclear weapons.”

Israel refuses to confirm if it has nuclear weapons but is widely believed to have a stockpile of at least 100 devices.

Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, April, 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

At the end of May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showcased an archive of over 100,000 document and files spirited by Israeli agents out of Tehran, which he said clearly showed that Iran had been working on producing a nuclear weapons before signing the deal.

Last week Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, gave a live television interview from the Natanz site during which he displayed three models of locally produced advanced enrichment centrifuges. Salehi said a new workshop at Natanz was nearly ready to open and could build 60 centrifuges a day, of all three models.

The Natanz facility is buried underground and Fordo is hidden inside a mountain, giving both sites, located in central and northcentral Iran, protection from strikes.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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