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DUBAI, Nov 4, (Agencies): Iran said on Monday it would take another step away from the 2015 nuclear deal by developing centrifuges to speed up its uranium enrichment, its nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said. “Today, we are witnessing the launch of the array of 30 IR-6 centrifuges,” Salehi, who heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told state television. “Iran now is operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges. It shows our capacity and determination.”
Under the agreement between Iran and world powers, Tehran is only allowed to enrich uranium with just over 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. An IR-6 centrifuge can enrich uranium 10 times faster than the IR-1s. “Our scientists are working on a prototype called the IR-9, that works 50 times faster than the IR-1s,” Salehi said.
The deal was aimed at extending the time Iran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it sought one – something sometimes referred to as “breakout time” to about a year from 2-3 months. Iran denies ever having sought to build a nuclear bomb. The UN nuclear watchdog said in September that Iran had informed the agency about making modifications to accommodate cascades – or interconnected clusters – of 164 of the IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuge. Cascades of the same size and type were scrapped under the deal.
Tensions have risen between Tehran and Washington since last year when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord under which Iran had agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. The United States has since renewed and intensified its sanctions, slashing Iran’s crude oil sales by more than 80 percent.
Responding to Washington’s “maximum pressure”, Iran has breached the restrictions of the deal step-by-step and has rejected the United States’ demand that a far-reaching deal should be negotiated.
Tehran, however, has left room for diplomacy by saying that talks are possible if Washington lifts all the sanctions and returns to the nuclear deal. Iran has said it might take further steps in November if European parties to the pact fail to shield its economy from US penalties.
While steps taken by Iran so far do not make a big difference to that breakout time for now, it further complicates the prospects of saving the accord by the European parties to the deal, who have criticised Trump for exiting it.
The European Union Monday expressed concern after Iran announced earlier today that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will announce the 4th step of reducing the Iran deal, JCPOA, commitments within two days. “We have been consistently expressing our concerns since we believe that the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) should be preserved,” EU spokesperson for foreign policy Maja Kocijancic told a news conference.
“We as the EU remain committed to the implementation of the JCPOA because it is a matter of respecting international agreement. It is a matter of our security,” she noted. She said the EU continues to “urge Iran to be reverse such steps without delay and refrain from any measures that would undermine the nuclear deal.”
The spokesperson added the EU’s commitment to the nuclear deal depends on Iran’s full compliance to the treaty by Iran. Iran’s announcement that it has developed advanced machines to speed up uranium enrichment jeopardises a 2015 accord with world powers, Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday, urging Tehran to return to the pact. “Iran has built very advanced centrifuges, which do not comply with the agreement,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told a news conference in response to a question.
“They announced in early September that they would not comply with the nuclear accord and we think this is unacceptable,” he said alongside Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto.
Iranian nuclear agency chief Ali Akbar Salehi told state television earlier on Monday that Tehran was now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges and its scientists were developing an IR-9 able to enrich 50 times faster than IR-1s. The United States imposed sanctions on nine people and one entity tied to Iran, the US Treasury Department said on Monday, the 40th anniversary of Iran’s seizure of the US embassy in Tehran.
The sanctions were announced on the US Treasury Department website. Reviving decades-old cries of “Death to America,” Iran on Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 student takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran and the 444-day hostage crisis that followed as tensions remain high over the country’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers. Demonstrators gathered in front of the former US Embassy in downtown Tehran as state television aired footage from other cities across the country.
“Thanks to God, today the revolution’s seedlings have evolved into a fruitful and huge tree that its shadow has covered the entire” Middle East, said Gen Abdolrahim Mousavi, the commander of the Iranian army.
However, this year’s commemoration of the embassy seizure comes as Iran’s regional allies in Iraq and Lebanon face widespread protests. The Iranian Consulate in Karbala, Iraq, a holy city for Shiites, saw a mob attack it overnight. Three protesters were killed during the attack and 19 were wounded, along with seven policemen, Iraqi officials said. Associated Press video showed a fire burned the consulate’s gate as demonstrators threw gasoline bombs and climbed its walls, some waving an Iraqi fl ag. Iranian media only reported a “protest outside” of the diplomatic post, adding that things had returned to normal.