Iran has crossed another significant line set in the 2015 nuclear deal between it and major world powers.
On Sunday, Iran boldly announced that it would within hours go over the level spelled out in the deal for uranium enrichment. The move sends a signal that Iran is losing patience with a deal that has not provided the economic relief promised.
Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, made the announcement at a news conference in Iran. Araghchi said Iran would start enriching uranium to provide fuel for its Bushehr power plant, which requires fuel with a concentration of about 5%.
Araghchi says Iran will go over another unspecified limit again in 60 days, raising pressure on diplomatic negotiations.
“This is to protect the nuclear deal, not to nullify it. … This is an opportunity for talks. And if our partners fail to use this opportunity, they should not doubt our determination to leave the deal,” Araghchi said.
Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to keep its enrichment of uranium below 3.67% purity. It was one of several limits set in an effort to keep Iran at least a year away from accumulating enough material with which to build a nuclearbomb.
In exchange for keeping down enrichment levels, Iran was supposed to see economic sanctions lifted and more opportunities for trade. But after President Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal last year, the U.S. reimposed the sanctions it had promised to lift and is demanding that other countries stop most business with Iran. The U.S. says it’s trying to force Iran to renegotiate a tougher deal and change its behavior in the Mideast.
Iran is now needing a greater cash flow as oil and other exports dwindle. The country says it will stop meeting its commitments under the nuclear deal unless European countries and other trade partners find a way to provide the economic benefits it was originally promised.
In addition to being required to keep its enrichment levels low, Iran was also restricted in how much uranium it could have. Under the agreement, it could have no more than 300 kilograms (661 pounds)of 3.67% enriched uranium.
On July 1, Iran said that it had exceeded the 300-kilogram cap. The International Atomic Energy Agency later confirmed that Iran had crossed that line.