Report: Iran plans to start using more advanced centrifuges

Source: Stars and Stripes
Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, speaks Sept. 11, 2018, in an interview with The Associated Press at the headquarters of Iran’s atomic energy agency in Tehran, Iran.  VAHID SALEMI/AP

Iran plans to start using a new array of advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium, the country’s nuclear chief said Monday, according to state television, in a move likely to intensify pressure on Europe to save Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian state TV that an array of 30 IR-6 centrifuges will be inaugurated in the coming weeks.

Under the terms of its 2015 deal — from which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew more than a year ago — Iran had committed to not using the array until late 2023.

Iran steadily has increased its breaches of the nuclear accord as it pushes its European partners to find a way around U.S. sanctions that have kept it from selling oil abroad and have crippled the Iranian economy.

Salehi also said Iran now is producing up to 6 kilograms of enriched uranium daily.

“It means we have restored pre-deal” capacity, he said.

In September, Iran inaugurated an array of 20 IR-6 centrifuges that can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as the IR-1 that Iran already was using.

Iran currently is enriching uranium to about 4.5%. Prior to the nuclear deal, it only reached up to 20%, which is a short technical step away from the weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Meanwhile on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Baghdad with Iraqi President Barham Salih and other Iraqi officials.

Lavrov told reporters after meeting his Iraqi counterpart, Mohammed Ali al-Hakim, that the aim of Moscow and Baghdad is to “reduce escalation and we have a unified stance on putting forward initiatives regarding the Gulf region.”

Al-Hakim said he and Lavrov talked about reducing tensions and protecting shipping in the Gulf.

Regional tensions spiked last month after a drone-and-missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facility that shook global energy markets. The U.S. said Iran was behind the attack. Tehran denied the charge and said any retaliatory strikes by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia could lead to “all-out war.”

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