Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Gharib Abadi speaks to the media after the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria. Image Credit: AP

Vienna: Iran is enriching uranium to 4.5 per cent purity, above the 3.67 per cent limit set by its deal with major powers, the United Nations nuclear watchdog policing the deal told member states in a closed-door meeting yesterday, diplomats familiar with the figures said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had previously said on Monday only that Iran was over the 3.67 per cent limit, its second breach of the 2015 deal in as many weeks. An Iranian spokesman said on Monday it had passed 4.5 per cent, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.

On July 1, the IAEA verified that Iran’s stock of enriched uranium was 205kg, more than the maximum 202.8kg allowed under the agreement. At Wednesday’s meeting, IAEA officials said Iran’s stock of enriched uranium was now 213.5 kg. Both figures were verified on Tuesday, the four diplomats said. It was not immediately clear whether the samples tested were taken on Monday or Tuesday.

Economic sanctions

The rise in the enrichment level is still far below the 20 per cent that Iran refined to before the nuclear accord, and the roughly 90 per cent needed to make uranium weapons-grade.

Iran says it is responding to punishing economic sanctions the United States has imposed on Tehran since Washington pulled out of the nuclear deal a year ago. Washington says it is open to talks on a more far-reaching accord but Iran says it must first be able to sell as much oil as it did before the US.

Meanwhile, Iran says it will not reverse its decision to increase uranium enrichment beyond the limits set by the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers until it achieves its “full rights” under the deal, which US President Donald Trump abandoned last year.

The official IRNA news agency quotes Ali Shamkhani, a senior security official, as telling a French envoy on Wednesday that the decision to increase enrichment is an “unchangeable strategy”. Shamkhani goes on to criticise European countries for their “lack of will” in providing relief from US sanctions.

Iran pushes limits of nuclear deal. Image Credit: Graphic News/Gulf News