Iran to break limit of uranium enrichment in setback to nuclear deal

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Iran has confirmed it is increasing its level of uranium enrichment – breaking a limit which was set under a 2015 deal with world powers.

The decision means Tehran is further scaling back its commitments to the nuclear accord which had up to now kept the maximum level of purity at 3.67% – enough for electricity generation.

Iran said it will enrich uranium to the level needed to produce fuel for a nuclear power plant which officials said was 5%.

Senior Iranian officials also said Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days unless signatories of the pact worked to stop US sanctions.

America has already pulled out of the historic agreement and Tehran’s announcement is a fresh setback for the remaining signatories, including the UK, which is urging Iran to remain committed to the deal.

The Middle East country says its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes, but there are concerns that increasing its capacity could lead to the production of nuclear weapons.

Iran to break limit of uranium enrichment in setback to nuclear deal
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President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions on Iran last month

Iran’s decision came less than a week after it admitted it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than the 300kg (661 lbs) allowed under the pact, prompting President Donald Trump to warn it was “playing with fire”.

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Mr Trump quit the agreement last May and reimposed sanctions on the gulf nation as Washington tried to force Tehran to renegotiate the accord.

Experts say higher enrichment and a growing stockpile could narrow the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material for an atomic bomb – something Iran denies it wants but which the deal prevented.

Iran is seeking a lifting of US sanctions, which has badly hit their oil exports, as a precondition for beginning talks with the six signatories – the UK, Russia, France, China, Germany and the EU.

Iran to break limit of uranium enrichment in setback to nuclear deal
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President Emmanuel Macron has sent a warning to Iran over its nuclear use

Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the telephone he was “deeply concerned” over further weakening of the deal, warning there would be inevitable consequences.

Mr Macron also said he would try to find a way by 15 July to resume dialogue between Iran and its western partners.

According to Iranian state TV, Mr Rouhani told Mr Macron that “lifting all sanctions can be the beginning of a move between Iran and six major powers”.

“The US sanctions are a full-scale economic war against Iran that could create more crisis in the region and in the world,” he added.