Iran takes "fourth step" away from nuclear deal
Iran has started injecting uranium gas into the centrifuges at its underground Fordow nuclear facility, Reuters reported.
The move further distances the country from the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Tehran and several world powers to curb its nuclear ambitions in return for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
The deal specifically bans nuclear material from Fordow; with the injection of the uranium gas, the facility moves beyond the limits set out in the deal and becomes an active nuclear site.
"With the presence of inspectors from International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran started injecting (uranium) gas into centrifuges in Fordow," state TV reported.
|[read also: US accuses Iran of 'nuclear extortion' with enrichment step
despite Washington's abandonment of deal]
Iran had agreed in 2015 to turn the Fordow facility into a "nuclear, physics and technology centre" where 1,044 centrifuges would be used purposes other than enrichment, such as producing stable isotopes, which have a variety of civil uses.
Last year however, the US under President Donald Trump abandoned the deal claiming it was in Iran's favour, renewing and intensifying sanctions under a campaign of "maximum pressure".
The sanctions have slashed Iran’s economically vital crude oil sales by more than 80 percent.
After waiting a year after Trump pulled out of the deal, Tehran retaliated by bypassing its restrictions step by step, including by breaching both its cap on stockpiled enriched uranium and on the level of enrichment.
"Iran has taken its fourth step to decrease its nuclear commitments to the deal in reaction to the increased U.S. pressure and inactivity of European parties to the deal to save it," state TV added.
Tehran announced on Tuesday that it would enrich uranium to 5 percent at Fordow, which will further complicate the chances of saving the accord, which European powers, Russia and the European Union are trying to maintain.
The deal allows Iran can enrich uranium at 3.67 percent - suitable for civilian power generation, but far below the 90 percent threshold of nuclear weapons grade.
The US had accused Iran on Tuesday of "nuclear extortion" and vowed no let-up in pressure after the clerical regime said it would resume uranium enrichment at the key Fordow plant.
Tehran denies ever having aimed to develop a nuclear bomb. It has given the UK, France and Germany another two months to salvage the deal, leaving the door open for diplomacy by saying that it would consider talks with Washington if the US lifts all sanctions and returns to the nuclear deal.
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