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Iran warned over uranium enrichment programme

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano Picture by Ronald Zak/AP
By George Jahn

Iran has been warned that unless it slows its uranium enrichment process, it could soon break through a cap on material which could be used to make a bomb, diplomats have said.

This comes after the head of the UN's nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, said Iran is complying with obligations limiting uranium enrichment "for now".

A nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers stipulates that Iran can possess only low-enriched uranium - which is not suitable for weapons - and no more than 300 kilograms (660lbs) at any time.

This is far less than would be needed to make a nuclear weapon, even if it were further enriched to weapons-grade levels.

However, even a slight violation of Iran's enrichment commitments would be politically volatile at a time when the deal is on shaky ground. The incoming US administration wants the agreement renegotiated, and many American politicians oppose it. Iran said it will not renegotiate the deal, and accused the US of reneging on commitments to lift sanctions.

Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear arms. Its president, Hassan Rouhani, said after weekend talks with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano that his country would abide by the deal if other nations do as well.

An IAEA statement said Mr Amano "stressed the vital importance of full implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments".

Asked whether he had concerns about Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, he told reporters that Tehran is within the limits – "for now".

While Iran has generally kept its obligations since the deal was implemented in January, it has twice exceeded the limit on stockpiles of heavy water, used to cool reactors which produce large amounts of plutonium.

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