Tehran Ready to Exceed Limits on Nuclear Stockpile

Iranian authorities said Monday that within weeks they could exceed an internationally agreed cap on their stockpile of low-enriched uranium, the Wall Street Journal informs.

Tehran threatened earlier this month to step up its nuclear program, saying it would initially stop respecting limits set on its stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water, both of which can be used in the production of nuclear weapons.

Iran also warned that without economic help from Europe to buffer the effect of renewed U.S. sanctions, it would take further steps.

The Trump administration deepened already sharp sanctions against Iran and increased the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. While President Donald Trump has said in recent days that Washington wasn’t seeking war with Iran, on Twitter over the weekend he warned if there is a conflict, “that will be the official end of Iran.”

Top Iranian authorities have said they believe Trump won’t risk war and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Monday on Twitter that “economic terrorism and genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran’.” The U.S. has said its military buildup in the Persian Gulf is intended to dissuade Tehran from attacking U.S. interests and scaling up its nuclear program.

On Monday, Iranian media cited officials at the Natanz nuclear facility saying they had made technical changes to the site to allow a quadrupling of Iran’s production of low-enriched uranium, the Journal adds.

Under the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran is permitted to stockpile up to 300 kilograms of uranium enriched up to a 3.67% purity. It was last reported by the U.N. atomic agency in February to have around four-fifths of that amount.

“Soon we will reach 300 kilos and we will surpass that,” the spokesman of Iran’s atomic agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, was quoted saying. “It will not be (even) a few weeks.”

European officials had hoped that Iran would move slowly to gear up its production of nuclear material. Western officials and experts say Tehran would still require around a year to produce enough highly enriched uranium to fuel an atomic weapon. Weapons-grade uranium has a purity of around 90 percent.

While Washington pulled out of the nuclear agreement a year ago, European governments are still supporting it. They have warned Tehran to fulfill the agreement in full but European officials say they won’t take any action unless Iran is actually breaching the deal. Iran argues it would be allowed under the agreement to exceed certain terms in retaliation to U.S. sanctions, the Journal noted.

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