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Iran says it has resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment in breach of nuclear pact

Iran says it has resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment in breach of nuclear pact
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Iranian officials said Monday that Tehran has resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment, contravening the 2015 nuclear agreement the U.S. left in 2018.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing 20 percent enriched uranium has started in Fordow enrichment complex,” Ali Rabeie, a spokesman for the Iranian government, told state media Monday, according to Reuters.

“The process of gas injection to centrifuges has started a few hours ago and the first product of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas will be available in a few hours,” he said. “The process has started after taking measures like informing the U.N. nuclear watchdog.”

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The watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Jan. 1 that Iran had informed the organization it would resume enrichment.

Iran’s Parliament passed a law last month that included the resumption of enrichment after its top nuclear scientist was killed in a strike Tehran has blamed on Israel. It marks the latest of several Iranian violations of the agreement since the Trump administration exited the deal and imposed heavy sanctions on Tehran.

While the deal restricts the purity at which Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, the nation had previously breached this agreement by less than a percentage point. Uranium is considered weapons-grade at the 90 percent level.

The latest move comes amid escalating U.S.-Iran tensions, coinciding with both the imminent inauguration of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE and the anniversary of the U.S.-ordered killing of a top Iranian general. While Biden has expressed a desire to reenter the Obama-era deal, the escalations on both the U.S. and Iranian sides are likely to complicate the path to a new agreement.

Tehran has also acknowledged seizing a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, which most of the world’s oil must pass through. State TV said on Monday that Iran halted the MT Hankuk Chemi over “oil pollution,” according to The Associated Press.