Iran uranium enrichment move carries ‘very significant risks’

Germany, France and Britain have said they are “deeply concerned” at Iran’s move to step up its uranium enrichment, warning of “very significant” risks.

On Tuesday, Iran said it was now refining uranium to 20 percent purity, the biggest break yet from its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal struck with world powers.

Iran’s increased uranium enrichment triggered international concern because it is seen as a significant step towards the 90 percent level required for a nuclear weapon.

The purpose of the deal was to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon – something Tehran insists it does not want to do.

“This action, which has no credible civil justification and carries very significant proliferation-related risks, is in clear violation of Iran’s commitments,” the European trio said on Wednesday.

“We strongly urge Iran to stop enriching uranium to up to 20 percent without delay, reverse its enrichment program to the limits agreed in the [agreement] and to refrain from any further escalatory steps which would further reduce the space for effective diplomacy.”

New US administration

The three European signatories to the deal, known as the E3, cautioned in their statement that Tehran’s latest move “risks compromising the important opportunity for a return to diplomacy with the incoming US administration”.

The Iranian government has signalled a readiness to engage with US President-elect Joe Biden, who has expressed willingness to return to diplomacy with Tehran.

A decision to begin enriching to 20 percent purity a decade ago nearly triggered an Israeli strike targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The tensions only abated with the 2015 deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

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