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Ali Akbar Salehi

Ali Akbar Salehi

Iran has begun to build a hall in “the heart of the mountains” near its Natanz nuclear site for making advanced centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Tuesday, aiming to replace a production hall at the facility hit by fire in July.

Iran said at the time that the fire was the result of sabotage and had caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.

“Due to the sabotage, it was decided to build a more modern, larger and more comprehensive hall in all dimensions in the heart of the mountain near Natanz. Of course, the work has begun,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, according to state TV.

Natanz is the centerpiece of Iran’s enrichment program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. Western intelligence agencies and the UN’s nuclear watchdog believe Iran had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms program that it halted in 2003. Tehran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.

The Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by IAEA inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

A confrontation between arch foes Tehran and Washington has worsened since 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions. In reaction to US sanctions, Tehran has gradually distanced itself from the nuclear pact.

This comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that Iran’s stockpile of uranium is more than 10 times the limit set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) treaty Iran signed with the US and European nations in 2015.

The IAEA stated in its quarterly report issued last Friday that the amount of low-concentration enriched uranium reserves in Iran reached 2,320 kilograms, which is 10 times more than the limit set by the IAEA’s board of governors.

Pompeo added in a tweet that Iran must European “must wake up to the reality that the nuclear deal is history and should join us in imposing strong sanctions.”

He also said that “pressure and comprehensive talks are the only path forward.”

According to the nuclear deal, Iran is not permitted to possess more than 203 kilograms of low-concentration uranium reserves, but Iran had previously announced that it had reduced its nuclear obligations due to US sanctions.
The IAEA’s board of governors in Vienna issued a decision in late June, proposed by Britain, Germany and France, condemning Iran’s nucleaar violations and not allowing the agency to visit two suspicious sites.

This was the first decisive decision by the UN organization against Iran during the past eight years.
Meanwhile, the IAEA said that its inspectors visited one of the two sites that it had agreed to inspect with Iran last week.

The agency said in its report, without naming the site, that environmental samples were taken and they will be tested to see if there are traces of uranium at the site.

Source » arabnews

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