TEHRAN – Iran announced on Saturday that it had activated advanced centrifuges to boost its reserves of enriched uranium, part of its plan to scale back its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal in response to the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the pact.
A total of 20 such centrifuges are now operational, said Behruz Kamalvandim, a spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI).
He added that Iran had the right to reduce its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal since other signatories were not upholding their end of the deal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency will continue to monitor the Iranian program and it has already been notified of the new measures, Kamalvandi said.
Part of the nuclear deal required the Islamic Republic to reduce its centrifuges by two thirds and use only its first-generation apparatus in exchange of slight easing of international sanctions.
“It is not a violation to the deal, it is a rectification,” he said, warning Europe it was running out of time to react.
Meanwhile, The US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he was “not surprised” by the measures taken by Iran.
“I’m not surprised that Iran has announced that it is going to violate the JCPOA,” he told a press conference in Paris, referring to the nuclear deal by its official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“They had been violating it, they had violated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for many years,” he said.
Iran’s government has called on European members of the pact to facilitate its oil exportations or grant the Islamic Republic a credit line to compensate Iran for the sanctions imposed by the United States after President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron has led diplomatic efforts to sit Trump down with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani.
The US re-imposed and toughened sanctions on Iran following its unilateral decision. The remaining members of the deal are Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Iran, in response, started to enrich uranium at 4.5 percent, more than the 3.67 percent stipulated by the deal and began to exceed its permitted reserves of enriched uranium, which were set at 300 kg.
The Islamic Republic planned to develop research centrifuges to meet its demands, but for now it would not enrich uranium at 20 percent, Kamalvandi said.
Despite increasing its nuclear activities, Iran continues to allow and cooperate with inspectors, IAEA reported.
IAEA Director-General Cornel Feruta will visit Iran on Sunday, coinciding with the new measures taken by the Islamic Republic.
The US-imposed sanctions targeted Iran’s oil and banking sectors.
EU efforts to help Iran circumnavigate the sanctions have been dogged by setbacks.
Furthermore, tensions between the US and Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial thoroughfare in the Persian Gulf for the global oil sector, have flared up.
The US set in force its Operation Sentinel in a bid to protect tankers in the strait.
In July, Iranian forces seized the British-flagged ship Stena Impero after UK authorities seized an Iranian ship off Gibraltar that they said was destined for Syria, in breach of EU sanctions.
The US has also accused Iran of carrying out sabotage attacks against tankers in the region.