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Monday 23 September 2019

Iran suspends parts of nuclear deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at an annual Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at an annual Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell

Iran's president has said Tehran will begin keeping excess uranium and heavy water from its nuclear programme, setting a 60-day deadline for new terms to its nuclear deal with world powers before it will resume higher uranium enrichment.

Hassan Rouhani's address to the nation came on the anniversary of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the atomic accord.

Mr Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged that the situation was dire.

"This surgery is to save the (deal), not destroy it," he said.

The 2015 deal saw sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme. After the US withdrew from the accord it restored crippling sanctions on Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis.

Iran sent letters on Wednesday on its decision to the leaders of Britain, China, the European Union, France and Germany. All were signatories to the nuclear deal and continue to support it. A letter was also to go to Russia.

"If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal," Mr Rouhani said.

There was no immediate response from the US. The White House said on Sunday that it would dispatch an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to the Persian Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Tehran.

Under terms of the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300kg of low-enriched uraniumm, compared with the 10,000kg of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

The US last week ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, as well as it being able to sell its heavy water to Oman.

Washington has also ended waivers for nations buying Iranian crude oil, a key source of revenue for Tehran.

Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67pc, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90pc. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20pc, scientists say the time needed to reach 90pc is halved. Iran has previously enriched to 20pc.

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