Iran said on Saturday that it plans to enrich uranium up to 20% purity at its underground Fordow nuclear facility “as soon as possible”, a level far above limits set by an international nuclear accord.

“We are like soldiers and our fingers are on the triggers. The commander should command and we shoot. We are ready for this and will produce [20% enriched uranium] as soon as possible”, the head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran told state television.

“Iran has informed the Agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20% at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant”, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday, adding that Tehran “did not say when this enrichment activity would take place”.

Iran signed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia. US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018 and imposed sanctions on Iran.

The deal allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. Citing the US withdrawal from the deal, Iran has breached many of JCPOA’s restrictions. It currently enriches its uranium stockpile up to around 4.5%, which is above the 3.67% cap imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal, but below the 90% purity considered weapons-grade.

Iran has always denied pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program was strictly for civilian purposes.

US president-elect Joe Biden has earlier suggested that the United States would reenter the deal if Iran complies with the agreement, but Iran has said it would comply once the countries that signed the deal provide Tehran with the economic relief promised under the accord.


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