Iran announced the start of enriching uranium to a higher purity level as Europeans failed to respect the July 7 deadline set to shield it from the US sanctions, local reports say.
It will be the second breach of a 2015 historic nuclear deal in a week.
On May 8 last year, the US walked away from the 2015 deal under which Iran had agreed to limit its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting all economic sanctions.
After its pull-out, the US started re-imposing sanctions on Iran.
Exactly a year after the US withdrawal, Tehran set a July 7 deadline for the other signatories of the nuclear deal — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — to rein in the US and protect Iran’s interests. The deadline expired today.
Announcing the restart of high-level uranium enrichment at a joint press conference, above, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said the country would exceed the limit of 3.67% to a level that fulfils the needs of its power plants.
Kamalvandi said Tehran has not yet decided on the level of enrichment for the Tehran research reactor which is powered by nuclear fuel enriched to a purity of 20 percent.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei criticised the US decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal adding that all peace-loving nations are concerned about the US’ actions.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran can no longer adhere to the limit set under the 2015 deal.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is set to send a letter to European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, announcing Iran’s decision to breach the nuclear deal limits.
Expressing European Union’s extreme concern over Iran’s decision, a spokeswoman for Mogherini said Iran should not take further steps that undermine the nuclear deal.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is closely monitoring whether Iran is exceeding the uranium enrichment level in violation of 2015 deal. The agency will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss Iran’s latest breach.
Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “very dangerous” step by Iran towards making atomic bombs.