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Iran says it will continue nuclear work despite US sanctions

Iran said Friday its experts would continue nuclear development activities, despite sanctions imposed earlier this week on their fellow scientists by the United States.

State TV cited a statement from the country’s nuclear department saying the US decision to impose sanctions on two Iranian nuclear scientists indicate continuation of a “hostile” attitude. It said the sanctions would make them “determined to continue their nonstop efforts more than before.”

The statement said the sanctions violate international law.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed sanctions on two officials with Iran’s atomic energy organization, Majid Agha’i and Amjad Sazgar, who are involved in the development and production of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Pompeo also said he would revoke all but one of the sanctions waivers covering civil nuclear cooperation.

The waivers had allowed Russian, European and Chinese companies to continue to work on Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities without drawing American penalties.

Waivers that permitted work at the Arak heavy water plant and the Tehran Research Reactor had been in place until now. A waiver for work at the Bushehr nuclear power station will be the only one extended.

Since the US withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018, Iran has gradually taken steps away from the accord and started injecting uranium gas into more than a thousand centrifuges. Iran says the steps could be reversed if Europe offers a way for it to avoid US sanctions choking off its crude oil sales abroad.

Iran is also enriching uranium up to 4.5 percent in violation of the accord’s limit of 3.67%. Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.

At the 4.5% level, it is enough to help power Iran’s Bushehr reactor, the country’s only nuclear power plant. Prior to the nuclear deal, Iran had reached up to 20%.

On Thursday Tehran dismissed the impact of Pompeo’s move, calling it a “desperate” move.

The Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran said the US had taken the action in a bid “to distract public opinion from its continued defeats at the hands of Iran.

“Ending waivers for nuclear cooperation with Iran… has effectively no impact on Iran’s continued work” on what the Islamic republic insists is a purely civilian nuclear energy program, its spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi added in a statement published on the agency’s website.

The US decision, he said, was in response to Iranian fuel shipments to Venezuela — which is also under US sanctions — and the “significant advancements of Iran’s nuclear industry.”

Pompeo had said the Iranian regime “has continued its nuclear brinkmanship by expanding proliferation-sensitive activities. These escalatory actions are unacceptable and I cannot justify renewing the waiver.”

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations said that with the move, Pompeo was pulling the “final plug” on the nuclear deal.

The remaining parties to the deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, are Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

Source: Agencies via TOI