Rouhani warns Iran could enrich uranium at weapons-grade levels

Rouhani warns Iran could enrich uranium at weapons-grade levels
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Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said that the country had the ability to reach the 90 percent uranium enrichment level needed to manufacture nuclear weapons, though the government is still aiming to renegotiate the fractured 2015 nuclear deal. 

Rouhani, who is set to leave office next month and be replaced by hard-line President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, reportedly said in remarks published by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency that “even if one day there is a need for 90 percent enrichment for a reactor, we do not have any problem and we are able.” 

“We can do anything in the peaceful path,” he added in a Cabinet meeting, according to The Associated Press

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Reuters reported that the outgoing leader also criticized top Iranian officials for "not allowing" his government to reinstate the nuclear deal, which broke down after former President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in 2018. 

"They took away the opportunity to reach an agreement from this government,” Rouhani said Wednesday, according to Reuters. “We deeply regret missing this opportunity.” 

Trump reimposed crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy after leaving the nuclear agreement, prompting Iran to raise its uranium enrichment levels and vow to continue doing so until the punishments are lifted. 

The most recent round of talks aiming to reach a new deal concluded late last month in Vienna, and the next round has yet to be scheduled. Negotiations could be complicated under the new Iranian president, who said last month that the country’s ballistic missile program is “nonnegotiable."

The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement had limited Tehran’s program to enriching uranium only up to 3.67 percent, which the AP noted is enough to power a civilian nuclear reactor. 

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However, the country has now raised its level of uranium enrichment to 60 percent. 

Raisi, who is under U.S. sanctions for his alleged involvement in the extrajudicial killings of Iranian political prisoners, also said last month that he has no plans to meet with President BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE, adding that “all U.S. sanctions must be lifted and verified by Tehran” before a new nuclear agreement can be reached. 

Last week, Iran notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that it planned to produce uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent purity for reactor fuel. 

The move prompted pushback from the State Department, with spokesperson Ned Price telling reporters that Iran’s actions were "provocations" that breached its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.