Iranian state television quoted Ali Khamenei as saying on Monday 22/2 that Tehran may enrich uranium by up to 60 percent if the country needs it, adding that Tehran will never yield to US pressure over its nuclear activities.
The nuclear agreement that Iran concluded with six world powers in 2015 and which it has violated since the United States withdrew from it in 2018, sets the fissile purity at which Tehran can enrich uranium at 3.67 percent, which is less than the 20 percent that the Islamic Republic reached before the conclusion. The agreement, well below the 90 percent ratio needed to build a nuclear weapon. The television quoted Khamenei as saying, “The level of Iranian uranium enrichment will not be limited to 20 percent. We will increase that to whatever level the country needs … we may increase it to 60 percent,” in fueling the crisis with Washington over the future of the agreement.
“The Americans and the European parties to the agreement have used unfair language against Iran … Iran will not yield to pressure. Our position will not change,” Khamenei said. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Khamenei’s comments “appear to be a threat” and refused to respond to what he described as “assumptions.” He reiterated Washington’s readiness to hold talks with Iran on returning to the nuclear deal. US President Joe Biden’s administration said last week it was ready to talk to Iran about the two countries returning to the deal abandoned by former President Donald Trump.
Tehran said last week that it was studying a proposal by the European Union to hold an informal meeting between the countries currently participating in the nuclear deal and the United States, but had not responded yet. Washington and Iran, which has resumed 20 percent enrichment in an apparent attempt to increase pressure on the United States, are at odds over who should take the first step to revive the deal. Despite domestic pressure to ease economic hardship exacerbated by sanctions, Iranian leaders insist that Washington must end the economic pressure campaign first to revive the deal, while Washington says Tehran must first return to full compliance.
Path of diplomacy
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Monday that Washington would aim to consolidate and extend the 2015 deal, which aims to limit Iran’s ability to enrich enrichment, a possible pathway to build atomic bombs, in exchange for the lifting of most sanctions. In his televised remarks, Khamenei reiterated his denial of any Iranian intention to use uranium enrichment in the production of weapons. “The international Zionist clown (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) said that they will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons. First of all, if we have such an intention, even those stronger than him will not be able to stop us.”
To pressure the Biden administration to drop the sanctions, Iran’s ultra-conservative parliament passed a law last year requiring the government to end surprise inspections by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency from Tuesday if sanctions are not lifted. Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s envoy to the agency, said that Tehran had stopped implementing the so-called additional protocol, which allows the agency to conduct surprise inspections, at midnight (2030 GMT). To make room for diplomacy, the agency reached an agreement on Sunday with Iran to mitigate the impact of declining Iranian cooperation and refuse to allow snap inspections. Iranian MPs protested, Monday, against Tehran’s decision to allow “necessary” monitoring operations of the United Nations inspectors for a period of up to three months, saying this violates the new law.
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