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05.11.2019 US & Canada

Iran to resume uranium enrichment as 2015 nuclear accord falters

AFP/Iranian Presidency/HO
NOV 5, 2019 US & CANADA

Iran said this Tuesday that it will resume uranium enrichment at an underground facility south of the capital. The EU immediately voiced its concern over this latest decision by Tehran which risks further weakening the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Iran had accepted in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

One of the restrictions in the 2015 accord meant Iran agreed to suspend all enrichment at the Frodow plant in the mountains near the city of Qom in return for a lifting of international sanctions.

However, in May of this year the US pulled out of the agreement, and reinstated crippling sanctions against Tehran.

That move saw Iran suspend its own commitments to the accord with this latest announcement officially cutting it off from the deal.

Iran's President Hassan Rouahani announced on Tuesday that “starting from tomorrow (Wednesday), we will begin injecting (uranium hexafluoride) gas at Fordo,” during a speech broadcast on state television.

Nuclear enrichment
Under the terms of the agreement, Rouhani noted that Iran had retained more than 1,000 centrifuges at the plant which had been running empty since the deal was struck.

Tehran added that the resumption of enrichment at Fordow would be carried out transparently and under the surveillance of inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA.

Earlier in the month, Paris had said it feared further nuclear escalation from Iran following its refusal to speak to US President Donald Trump during this years UN Annual General Assembly in New York.

In response to Rouhani's latest announcement, France is urging Iran to reverse its decision.

“The announcements by Iran go against the Vienna agreement,” stressed France's foreign ministry in a statement. It added that it was “deeply worried” by Iran's latest steps and would await reports from the IAEA on developments on the Iranian side.

Russia, with long-time ties to Iran, also expressed concern, but added it understands Tehran's concerns over the “unprecedented and illegal sanctions” imposed by Washington.

The European Union also voiced its concern, noting it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to save the 2015 accord.

However Rouhani maintains that Iran remains committed to saving the 2015 agreement, despite the phased suspension of some of its commitments.

“We are committed to all the behind-the-scenes negotiations we have with some countries for a solution . . . over the next two months we will negotiate more.”