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Iran Confirms IAEA Report Saying It Has Accelerated Production Of Highly Enriched Uranium

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Centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz nuclear facility. (file photo)

Iran has confirmed a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluding that the country has expanded its production of weapons-grade uranium to 60 percent purity.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said on August 18 that the actions are in response to the "non-implementation" of the nuclear agreement and U.S. sanctions.

As soon as the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement is implemented in accordance with the nonproliferation treaty (NPT) and U.S. sanctions are lifted, Iran will resume its technical obligations under the agreement, he said on August 18, according to the ISNA news agency.

Iran announced in April that it planned to start enriching uranium at up to 60 percent purity from 20 percent in response an attack on the Natanz nuclear site that it blamed on Israel.

The move was one of a series of steps Iran took in violation of the 2015 nuclear accord after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal and reimposed sanctions.

Talks to salvage the nuclear deal began in April in Vienna, but several rounds have failed to achieve a breakthrough, and the negotiations are currently on hold.

The talks involve representatives of the countries that signed the nuclear deal with Iran -- China, France, Russia, Britain, the U.S., and Germany. The participation of the U.S. envoy is indirect.

A senior European Union official said earlier this month after Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, took office that Iran is ready to resume the talks as soon as early September.

Germany urged Iran on August 18 to return to the negotiating table with a constructive approach.

Under the Iran nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran was limited to refining uranium to 3.67 percent.

The IAEA also said on August 16 that Iran produced 200 grams of uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent.

Uranium metal can be used to build the core of a nuclear bomb.

Iran announced in January that it intended to research uranium-metal production, saying it was needed for a research reactor. The nuclear deal also banned Iran from producing uranium metal.

"Iran has no credible need to produce uranium metal, which has direct relevance to nuclear weapons development," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement late on August 16.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and any breaches of the JCPOA can be reversed if the United States returns to the accord and drops crushing sanctions.

"If the other parties return to their obligations under the nuclear accord and Washington fully and verifiably lifts its unilateral and illegal sanctions...all of Iran's mitigation and countermeasures will be reversible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by state media.

President Joe Biden says he wants to return to the deal, but indirect talks in Vienna brokered by the Europeans to get both Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the accord have stalled.

The EU said earlier this month that new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was ready to resume talks and meetings could take place in Vienna in September.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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