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Iran ramps up uranium work as tensions with US rise over nuclear weapons

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Iran said it is moving quickly to enrich uranium up to 20 percent purity at a site hidden inside a mountain, a level it achieved before the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We are like soldiers and our fingers are on the triggers,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the US-educated head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on state television Saturday. “The commander should command and we shoot. We are ready for this and will produce (20 percent enriched uranium) as soon as possible.”

A 20 percent purity level is well above the 3.67 percent limit agreed upon in the 2015 deal. Although Iran has been violating the deal since President Trump pulled the US out of the deal in 2018, it has only reached 4.5 percent since then.

The use of its underground site at Fordo for enrichment is also a violation of the deal.

The move, which was also disclosed to by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency, would put the country a step closer to weapons-grade 90 percent purity.

The announcement comes amid rising tensions between Iran and the US as the Trump administration winds down, and could complicate plans by President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.

A satellite photo shows Iran's Fordo nuclear site.
A satellite photo shows Iran’s Fordo nuclear site.
Maxar Technologies via AP

It comes almost exactly a year after a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, and a month after the country’s top nuclear scientist was taken out in an attack that used a remote-controlled machine gun.

With Post wires

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