Iran further violating nuclear deal with use of advanced centrifuges

Iran further violating nuclear deal with use of advanced centrifuges
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Iran announced Saturday that is has begun using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium, further violating the 2015 nuclear pact it joined.

The announcement by Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran serves as the latest warning that European signatories to the deal are running out of time to convince Tehran to rein in its nuclear program.

Iran's announcement, which was reported by The Associated Press and Reuters, signifies another potential cut into the one-year time frame experts say Iran would need to develop enough enriched uranium to develop a nuclear weapon, though Tehran maintains its ambitions are peaceful.

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Iran has already breached the cap placed on its nuclear enrichment under the 2015 arrangement, though it has opened the door to again complying with the deal if European signatories help it sell its crude oil abroad in defiance of U.S. sanctions. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE withdrew the U.S. from the agreement last year, though observers said Tehran was still in compliance with the Obama-era deal until recently.

“Our stockpile is quickly increasing,” Kamalvandi warned at a press conference Saturday, according to multiple reports. “We hope they will come to their senses.” 

Kamalvandi specified that Iran has started using 20 IR-6 centrifuges and another 20 IR-4 centrifuges, saying an IR-6 can manufacture enriched uranium 10 times as quickly as an IR-1, while an IR-4 creates it five times as quickly.

Iran has already increased its enrichment to 4.5 percent, above the 3.67 percent cap under the deal. Kamalvandi said Iran has the capacity to go beyond 20 percent enrichment, which experts say is an important milestone after which weapons-grade uranium can easily be produced.

European leaders have scrambled to bring both Washington and Tehran back into the Obama-era deal, with French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronNATO is not brain dead yet Trump, NATO chief to meet at White House Macron: NATO experiencing 'brain death' MORE trying to convince Trump at the Group of Seven summit last month on a proposal under which Iran would reinstate full compliance with the deal in exchange for partial sanctions relief and a $15 billion credit line.

Trump has slapped sanctions on Iran's oil industry, metals sector, foreign minister and supreme leader after withdrawing from the deal, which placed limits on Tehran’s uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. 

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said Saturday it was aware of Iran’s announcement and that “agency inspectors are on the ground in Iran and they will report any relevant activities to IAEA headquarters in Vienna.” Kamalvandi said Iran would continue to allow the group’s inspectors to monitor sites in the country.