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Iran said to resume work at centrifuge plant allegedly targeted by Israel

Wall Street Journal cites diplomat saying parts for 170 advanced centrifuges have been produced at Karaj since late August, without any UN monitoring

The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)
The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

Iran has resumed producing parts for advanced centrifuges at a nuclear site allegedly once targeted by Israel, according to a Tuesday report by the Wall Street Journal.

Citing unidentified diplomats, the US newspaper said that operations at the Karaj facility resumed in August and have ramped up, with one diplomat saying that enough parts for 170 centrifuges had been produced since then.

The diplomats said there had been no UN monitoring of the site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director Rafael Grossi said last month that one of the watchdog’s cameras was destroyed and another heavily damaged in the June blast at Karaj, which Iran alleges was an Israeli sabotage attack.

Iran has acknowledged removing several damaged surveillance cameras installed by the IAEA at the Karaj site. It is unknown how many cameras are there.

In July, Iran accused Israel of mounting the sabotage attack on the site, which makes components for machines used to enrich uranium. Without disclosing details of the assault, Iranian authorities acknowledged that the strike had damaged the building.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, is shown new centrifuges and listens to head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi, while visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran, April 10, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AFP)

The attack on Karaj was just the latest in a series of suspected assaults targeting Iran’s nuclear program that have heightened regional hostilities in recent months. Israel is widely believed to have carried out the sabotage, though it has not claimed responsibility.

Earlier this month, Iran said it had almost doubled its stock of enriched uranium, as it prepares to resume talks with world powers on curbing its nuclear program.

“We have more than 210 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent, and we’ve produced 25 kilos at 60%, a level that no country apart from those with nuclear arms are able to produce,” said Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, in a report carried by the semi-official Tasnim and Fars news agencies.

Sixty percent enrichment is the highest level to which Iran has enriched uranium and is a short technical step to weapons-grade 90%. Under the nuclear agreement, Iran was barred from enriching uranium above 3.67%.

Tehran has progressively abandoned its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal since then-US president Donald Trump pulled Washington out in 2018, prompting Washington to impose fresh sanctions in response.

In September, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had boosted its stocks of uranium enriched above the percentage allowed in the deal.

Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran’s nuclear agency (AEOI) talks on stage at the International Atomic Energy’s (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna, Austria, September 20, 2021. (Lisa Leutner/AP)

On October 10, AEOI head Mohammad Eslami said his country had produced more than 120 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium, in theory allowing the manufacture of medical isotopes used mainly in diagnosing certain cancers.

The 2015 agreement with Britain, China, Russia, France, Germany, and the United States offered Iran some sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers are to resume on November 29.

Talks began in April in Vienna between Tehran and the remaining five parties to the 2015 deal, aimed at bringing Washington back into the agreement. But that dialogue has been stalled since the sixth round of talks in June, when ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election.

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