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Iran sanctions after discovery by UN of enriched uranium

Josep Borrell  (REUTERS)
Josep Borrell (REUTERS)

A new package of sanctions is being imposed on Tehran after reports that the UN’s nuclear watchdog had found uranium enriched very close to weapons grade in Iran, which is also supplying “kamikaze drones” to Russia.

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell announced the looming new restrictions amid fears that Iran is getting closer to building a nuclear weapon.

Iran has been enriching uranium to up to 60 per cent purity since April 2021. Three months ago, it started enriching to 60 per cent at a second site, Fordow.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which inspects Iran’s nuclear facilities, has now detected uranium enriched to 84 per cent, according to diplomatic sources. Weapons grade is around 90 per cent.

“The issue is whether it was a blip in the reconfigured cascades or deliberate. The agency has asked Iran for an explanation,” said one diplomat.

America, Britain and allies have also imposed sanctions against Iranian businesses and individuals supplying Vladimir Putin’s army with “kamikaze drones” being used in Ukraine.

Earlier this month, the IAEA criticised Iran for failing to inform it of a “substantial” change to the interconnections between the two cascades, or clusters, of centrifuges enriching uranium to up to 60 per cent at Fordow. Several diplomats said the change meant Iran could quickly switch to a higher enrichment level.

In 2018 the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that had lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.

Iran responded to the reimposition of US sanctions by breaching those restrictions, to the point that IAEA chief Rafael Grossi has said the deal is now an “empty shell”.

Security minister Tom Tugendhat described assassination and kidnap threats against London-based journalists working for the dissident Iran International TV channel as “beyond contempt”.