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Iran hints it could enrich uranium to five percent

Iran has hinted it could boost its uranium enrichment to five percent [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 July, 2019

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From Sunday, Iran will suspend parts of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in response to US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the agreement and re-imposition of crippling sanctions.
A top advisor to Iran's supreme leader has hinted that Tehran could boost its uranium enrichment to five percent for "peaceful" aims, ahead of a deadline it set for world powers to save a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran is acting on its 8 May threat to, from Sunday, suspend from parts of the agreement in response to US President Donald Trump's reimposition of crippling sanctions after withdrawing from the deal in May last year.

The accord capped Iran's enrichment maximum at 3.67 percent, sufficient for power generation but far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear weapon. 

Uranium enrichment "will increase as much as needed for our peaceful activities," Ali Akbar Velayati, international affairs advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an interview published Friday on the leader's official website.

"For Bushehr nuclear reactor we need five percent enrichment and it is a completely peaceful goal," he added.

Bushehr is Iran's only nuclear power station and is currently running on imported fuel from Russia that is closely monitored by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani of his "strong concern over the risk of weakening the nuclear agreement" and of the consequences that would follow, his office announced.

In a telephone conversation Macron said he would consult with the Iranian authorities and international partners concerned with a view to resuming talks involving all concerned parties to bring about the "necessary de-escalation" of the situation, the Elysee palace added.

On 8 May, Iran announced it would no longer respect the limits set on the size of its stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water, and threatened to abandon further nuclear commitments, including exceeding the agreed uranium enrichment maximum from 7 July. 

In-depth : US-Iran crisis - Fears of a negative impact on neighbouring countries

It has also threatened to resume building from that date a heavy water reactor - capable of one day producing plutonium - in Arak in central Iran, a project that had been mothballed under the deal.

The move comes in response to what Iran deems a failure by the remaining parties to the deal - the UK, China, France, Germany and Russia - to provide Tehran with relief from the US sanctions.

"The US has directly and Europeans indirectly violated" the deal, said Velayati.

"We will react proportionally the more they violate it."

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