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Iran announces further breach of nuclear agreement

Tehran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna about the new Iranian Atomic Energy Act and has thus once again announced violations of the international nuclear agreement. The country announced in a letter that it intends to enrich uranium up to a level of 20 percent, the agency said on Friday.

The letter is dated December 31st. “In a letter we informed the IAEA that we would have to change the uranium gas capsules and that the IAEA inspectors should unseal them,” said Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s nuclear organization (AEOI), according to Iranian media reports.

Gradual withdrawal from obligations

The 2015 nuclear pact stipulates that Iran may enrich uranium up to a maximum of 3.67 percent. However, after US President Donald Trump unilaterally terminated the agreement, Iran began to gradually withdraw from its commitments.

When the enrichment should begin under the new law, according to the IAEA in the letter remained open. The agency added that inspectors were stationed in Iran year-round and had regular access to the affected nuclear facility.

At the end of November, the nuclear law was passed by hardliners and government opponents in the Iranian parliament. According to this, the AEOI will produce and store 120 kilograms of 20 percent uranium per year, among other things.

“We have to implement the new Atomic Energy Act, we can do that too,” but President Hassan Rouhani “must also order this first,” said AEOI boss Salehi, without going directly into uranium enrichment. In December, he criticized the law as technically unrealistic, as there is currently no budget available for implementation.

Economic crisis due to US sanctions

President Rouhani thinks the law is politically unwise. In his opinion, it would jeopardize diplomatic efforts to rescue the 2015 Vienna nuclear deal after future American President Joe Biden took office, who will be sworn in on January 20. Tehran is hoping for the lifting of the related US sanctions that plunged the country into the worst economic crisis in recent history.

Politically sensitive is Iran’s withdrawal from the IAEA’s additional protocol, which would restrict or even forbid UN inspectors’ access to Iranian nuclear facilities. The law violates the Vienna nuclear deal in all respects, with which Iran should be kept from a nuclear weapons program.

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