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Flagrantly forging ahead at Fordo, Iran ups nuclear ante as Vienna talks resume

15 0 1
02.12.2021

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — After a months-long hiatus, Iran has returned to negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving its cratered nuclear deal with world powers. But Tehran isn’t slowing down the advances in its atomic program, further raising the stakes in talks crucial to cooling years of tensions boiling in the wider Mideast.

The case in point? Iran’s underground nuclear facility in Fordo.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations body charged with monitoring the Islamic Republic’s program, acknowledged Wednesday that Iran began feeding a cascade of 166 advanced IR-6 centrifuges with uranium there. The agency said Iran plans to enrich uranium there up to 20% purity — a short, technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Tehran’s diplomatic mission to Vienna sought to downplay the acknowledgment on Twitter as “an ordinary update in line with regular verification in Iran.”

However, even in clinical language, the announcement offers a stark contrast to what existed under the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The deal halted all enrichment at Fordo, which sits under a mountain near the holy Shiite city of Qom, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Tehran. The accord also called for Fordo to become a research-and-development facility.

The deal focused on Fordo because the site long has been a major point of contention for the West. It is about the size of a football field, large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges, but small and hardened enough to lead US officials to suspect it had a military purpose when they........

© The Times of Israel


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