Politics

Iran increases uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels, seeks to have sanctions lifted: watchdog

Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels and is seeking to have economic sanctions imposed over the Islamic nation’s controversial nuclear program lifted in exchange for slowing the program down, according to a United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

A report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) obtained by the Associated Press said that as of May 11, Iran had 313.2 pounds of uranium enriched up to 60% — an increase of 45.4 pounds since the last report by the U.N. watchdog in February. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

According to the IAEA, around 92.5 pounds of uranium enriched to 60% is the amount needed to theoretically create one atomic weapon if the uranium is enriched to 90%. IAEA head Rafael Grossi has stated in the past that Iran has enough enriched uranium for ‘several’ nuclear weapons.

The report also says that Iran’s enriched uranium supply as of May 11 was 1,3671.5 pounds, an increase of 1,489.8 pounds since the IAEA’s previous report.

Last week in Helsinki, Grossi said he was putting the IAEA’s talks with Iran on hold while the country deals with the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Reuters reported. 

‘But once this is over, we are going to be engaging again,’ he said, according to Reuters, noting that the pause is just a ‘temporary interruption that I hope will be over in a matter of days.’

Tensions have grown between Iran and the IAEA since 2018, when then-President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Since then, Iran has abandoned all limits the deal put on its program and quickly stepped up enrichment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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