Iran says to continue uranium enrichment
The United States on Friday extended five of seven sanctions waivers that allow Russia and European nations to conduct civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran but revoked the other two, the US State Department said.
The move comes amid growing Iranian frustration with the nuclear deal, with which UN inspectors say Tehran is complying but which has not led to a promised economic boom, with the administration of US President Donald Trump instead imposing sweeping sanctions.
Under the 2015 deal, which was negotiated under former president Barack Obama and still enjoys strong support among European powers, Iran was limited to keeping 300 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent.
As part of the agreement, Iran was to sell any enriched uranium above that threshold on international markets in return for natural uranium.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended the waivers, which expired Saturday, for 90 days, shorter than the 180 days that had been granted in the past. The waivers permit work at several Iranian nuclear sites to continue without US penalties. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Russia and several European nations help maintain the facilities and are engaged in converting equipment there for civilian use.
Facilities included in the waiver extensions include the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Fordo enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex and the Tehran Research Reactor, the State Department said.
In particular, the United States said it will not target the transfer of scrap and spent nuclear fuel out of Iran and will not impose sanctions over work at Bushehr, the country's only civilian nuclear power station, although it said it may punish any activity that expands the site.
The other two waivers — one that allowed Iran to store excess heavy water produced in the uranium enrichment process in Oman, and one that allowed Iran to swap enriched uranium for raw yellowcake with Russia — were not renewed, the department said. That decision is aimed at forcing Iran to stop enriching uranium, something it was allowed to do up to certain limits under the nuclear deal, it said.
Pompeo said the United States would start to impose sanctions on anyone involved in the trade of natural for enriched uranium – as well as in the storage of Iranian heavy water that was in excess of limits.
The Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear accord a year ago and instead vowed "maximum pressure" aimed at curbing the regional role of Iran.
Some observers believe that the Trump team is trying to goad Iran into breaking the terms of the nuclear deal, thereby causing it to collapse.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said on Saturday Iran will continue uranium enrichment under the nuclear deal with world powers, despite the US move to stop it.
“Under the nuclear accord Iran can produce heavy water and this is not in violation of the agreement. Therefore we will carry on with enrichment activity,” Larijani said, adding that the enrichment is “none of any country’s business”
AP, AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.