Iran Says It Has Surpassed Critical Nuclear Enrichment Level in 2015 Deal


LONDON — Iran has breached a crucial limit on the level of uranium enrichment set out in the 2015 nuclear deal, the country’s atomic energy agency said on Monday, as China, another signatory to the deal, accused the United States of “bullying” Tehran with crippling economic sanctions.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency, told the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB that the country had surpassed a limit of 3.67 percent uranium enrichment, and was prepared to go further.

Mr. Kamalvandi later told another Iranian news outlet, ISNA, that the enrichment level was above 4.5 percent.

He added that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who have the task of monitoring Iran’s compliance with the limits set out in the deal, were expected to confirm that information on Monday. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the enrichment level.

The change moves Iran closer to — but still far short of — the level of uranium enrichment needed to produce nuclear weapons. But Iran has maintained that the higher enrichment level would be for peaceful purposes only.

The United States withdrew last year from the landmark nuclear accord with other powers and Iran, and reimposed punishing economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

Iran has responded with a series of steps away from its obligations under the accord, which was intended to block Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, called the American sanctions on Iran “bullying” in a news conference on Monday.

“The U.S. side not only unilaterally withdrew from the agreement but also created more and more obstacles for Iran and other parties to implement the agreement through unilateral sanctions and long-armed jurisdiction,” he said. “It has been proven that unilateral bullying has become a worsening ‘tumor’ and is creating more problems and greater crises on a global scale.”

On Sunday, Iran also set a 60-day deadline for European signatories to come up with a strategy to ease the economic impact of the American sanctions, or Tehran would take further steps to walk back its obligations under the deal.

Less than 1 percent of naturally occurring uranium is U-235, a highly radioactive isotope, and enrichment means increasing that level. The 2015 agreement limited Iran to producing uranium that is no more than 3.67 percent U-235, a typical level of enrichment for use in a nuclear power plant.



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