Iran Warns It Can 'Enrich Uranium Higher' Than Before if U.S. Exits Nuclear Deal

'I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal,' says Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization

FILE PHOTO: Head of the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi attends the lecture "Iran after the agreement: Hopes & Concerns" in Vienna, Austria, September 28, 2016.
Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Iran has the technical capability to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before a multinational nuclear deal was reached to curb its nuclear program, state TV quoted the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, as saying.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has given European signatories to the 2105 deal a May 12 deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” in the agreement, or he will refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran.

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Salehi warned Trump against taking that course. “Iran is not bluffing.... Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached. ... I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal.”

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Under the deal, which led to the lifting of most international sanctions in 2016, Iran’s level of enrichment must remain around 3.6 percent.

Iran stopped producing 20 percent enriched uranium and gave up the majority of its stockpile as part of the agreement with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

Uranium refined to 20 percent fissile purity is well beyond the 5 percent normally required to fuel civilian nuclear power plants, although still well short of highly enriched, or 80 to 90 percent, purity needed for a nuclear bomb.

Tehran has ruled out any possibility of negotiating over the country’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 and its international role in the Middle East, as demanded by Trump.

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Britain, France and Germany back the deal as the best way of stopping Tehran getting nuclear weapons, but have called on Iran to limit its regional influence and curb the missile program.

A British government spokesman defended the accord, saying in a statement: “We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions.”

“That is why the IAEA inspection regime agreed as part of the Iran nuclear deal is one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords,” the spokesman added. “It remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal and that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a cache of documents he said proves Iran lied to the world about its nuclear program for years, even after the 2015 nuclear deal, at a press conference in Tel Aviv. 

Netanyahu spoke on Iran's nuclear weapons program, saying that the Islamic Republic "did not come clean about its nuclear program."

In his prime time address in English, Netanyahu concluded by saying "Iran lied about never having a secret nuclear program. Secondly, even after the deal, it continued to expand its nuclear program for future use. Thirdly, Iran lied by not coming clean to the IAEA," he said, adding that, "the nuclear deal is based on lies based on Iranian deception."

Trump, who spoke publicly 30 minutes after Netanyahu's speech, said that Netanyahu's speech "showed that I was 100% right" in criticizing the nuclear deal.