Iran will announce on Sunday an increase in uranium enrichment to five percent, the official IRNA news agency reported, quoting an unnamed Iranian official. In excess of the limit set out in its 2015 nuclear deal, a move that signals a growing challenge to mounting US sanctions.
The announcement comes at a time when the confrontation between the United States and Iran has intensified sharply, a year after Washington withdrew from the pact and re-imposed sanctions after lifting it under the deal in return for Tehran imposing restrictions on its nuclear work.
“The basic announcement tomorrow will be to increase the enrichment to five percent, up from the 3.67 percent that we agreed to under the agreement,” the official said on Saturday, on condition of anonymity.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported earlier that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi will announce further reduction in the obligations contained in the agreement on Sunday. Other officials will join Araghchi in issuing the announcement at a press conference at 10:30 am (0600 GMT) in Tehran.
The agreement aims to extend the time Iran will need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it so chooses, to a year from about two to three months. Iran says its nuclear programs are for peaceful purposes only, such as generating electricity rather than making bombs.
Under its agreement with six major powers, Iran could enrich uranium to 3.7 percent of the fissile material, less than the 20 percent it had reached before the deal and the roughly 90 percent rate of production of a nuclear weapon.
Iran’s announcement on Sunday is an embarrassment to Britain, France and Germany, signatories to the deal, which has been pressing for months to persuade Iran to remain committed to the deal.
Iran said the Europeans “did very little and too late” to salvage the agreement by protecting Iranian interests from US sanctions.