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Iranian president says EU has limited time to save nuclear deal

Updated June 17, 2019 - 3:45 am

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is warning that there’s a limited time to save the country’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Rouhani made the comment on Monday while meeting the new French ambassador to Tehran, Philippe Thiebaud.

Rouhani’s website quoted him as saying that the destruction of the deal was not in anyone’s interests.

“The current situation is very critical and France and the other parties to the (deal) still have a very limited opportunity to play their historic role for saving the deal,” he said.

He added: “There is no doubt that the collapse of the (accord) will not be beneficial for Iran, France, the region and the world.”

European Union foreign ministers are still looking for more information on who might be behind the attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz and called for utmost restraint.

At Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, Germany and others insisted they need a clearer picture before wading into a diplomatic conflict which could have serious implications in the Middle East.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that U.S. and British intelligence needs to be compared with other information from allies. “We have to be very careful,” he said.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it was not a time to jump to action without proper information. “The maximum restraint and wisdom should be applied,” she said ahead of the monthly foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

Maas told reporters on Monday that Germany is still in the process of collecting information and the evidence provided so far “comes from one side in particular.”

The United States has released what it claims is evidence that Iran was behind two alleged attacks on oil tankers last week near the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has denied being involved in the attacks.

Uranium enrichment needs

A spokesman for Iran’s nuclear program says the country has a need for uranium enriched up to 20%, only a step away from weapon-grade levels.

Behrouz Kamalvandi made the comment in a news conference carried on live television Monday.

Kamalvandi said Iran’s needs 5% enrichment for its nuclear power plant in southern Iranian port of Bushehr and it needs 20% enrichment for a Tehran research reactor.

When uranium is mined, it typically has about 140 atoms of this unwanted isotope for every atom of U-235. Refining it to a purity of 3.67%, the level now allowed by the nuclear deal, means removing 114 unwanted atoms of U-238 for every atom of U-235.

Boosting its purity to 20% means removing 22 more unwanted isotopes per atom of U-235, while going from there to 90% purity means removing just four more per atom of U-235, he noted. Ninety percent is considered weapons-grade material.

That means going from 20% to 90% is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts.

He says that increase could be to any level, from 3.67% which is the current limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Kamalvandi spoke to local journalists at Iran’s Arak heavy water facility.

His comments come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S., a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America for the nuclear deal.

Kamalvandi acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium.

Limit to be reached in 10 days

A spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency says the country will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days.

He spoke to local journalists at Iran’s Arak heavy water facility.

His comments come in the wake of suspected attacks on oil tankers last week in the region that Washington has blamed on Iran and amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S., a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America for the nuclear deal.

Kamalvandi acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium.

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