11 Dec, 2020 20:55
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that Iran could be a step closer to obtaining nukes if it enriches uranium at a higher purity and continues to frustrate international efforts to search its nuclear sites.
“A reduction in Iran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or enrichment to the 20 percent level would constitute a serious escalation that moves Iran closer to the ability to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Last week Iranian MPs passed a new law, requiring the country to “produce and store 120kg per year of uranium enriched to 20 percent” if the European signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal fail to curb financial sanctions on the country.
Pompeo said Tehran had not offered a “credible” explanation for the bill, which also postpones inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and accused Iran of “already unacceptable levels of cooperation” with the organization.
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The Secretary of State’s intervention comes during a period of heightened tension between Washington and Tehran, after the US sent two B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf on Thursday, amid reports of a “potential attack” by Iran-backed militias in Iraq.
The strong rhetoric between the US and Iran has ramped up since mid-November, when Tehran threatened a “crushing response” following reports that the Trump administration had considered strikes on Iranian nuclear sites.
On Friday Pompeo also called on the international community to hit Iran with “continued diplomatic and economic pressure” if it failed to cooperate with the IAEA.
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He said if Iran wanted relief from sanctions it would have to change its behavior in a number of areas, including agreeing to negotiate a new nuclear deal that includes its development of ballistic missiles – a move Germany also called for last week.
Tehran has consistently rejected renegotiating the agreement – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – as countries prepare for the possibility that Joe Biden may push for it to be updated if he becomes US President.
In 2018 President Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA, which was signed in 2015 between Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and US.