Iran tells UN it will hike uranium enrichment capacity, possibly from Wednesday
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Iran tells UN it will hike uranium enrichment capacity, possibly from Wednesday

Tehran's atomic agency chief says new center for producing centrifuges is about to open at Natanz, insists it doesn't violate nuke deal

Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, speaks with journalists upon his arrival to Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, July 15, 2015. (AP/ Ebrahim Noroozi)
Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, speaks with journalists upon his arrival to Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, July 15, 2015. (AP/ Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that it has launched a plan to increase its uranium enrichment capacity, nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday.

“If conditions allow, maybe tomorrow night at Natanz, we can announce the opening of the center for production of new centrifuges” for uranium enrichment, said Salehi, a vice president and head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, according to conservative news agency Fars.

“What we are doing does not violate the (2015 nuclear) agreement,” he said, adding that a letter was submitted to the IAEA “yesterday regarding the start of certain activities.”

He specified that it was just the start of the production process and “does not mean that we will start assembling the centrifuges.”

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran can build parts for the centrifuges as long as it does not put them into operation within the first decade.

An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector disconnects the connections between the twin cascades for 20% uranium production at Natanz nuclear power plant south of Tehran on January, 20, 2014 (Photo credit: Kazem Ghane/IRNA/AFP)

Salehi also emphasized that the moves “do not mean the negotiations (with Europe) have failed.”

European governments have been trying to salvage the agreement ever since the United States announced its withdrawal last month and said it would reimpose sanctions on foreign companies working in the Islamic Republic by November.

The other parties — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have vowed to stay in the accord but many of their companies have already started to wind down Iranian operations.

Israel bitterly opposes the deal, arguing the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal allowed Iran to expand its presence in the Middle East, both through its own forces and with proxy groups.

It also says the time limits on the accord do not guarantee Iran will not eventually obtain nuclear weapons, while it also wants to see restrictions on Iranian missile development.

On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the Europeans that “Iran will never tolerate both suffering from sanctions and nuclear restrictions” and called for preparations to speed up uranium enrichment.

He also called Israel a “malignant cancerous tumor” that should be “removed and eradicated.”

Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian uses only, but opponents in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia accuse it of seeking to build an atomic bomb.

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