Iran has breached the limit on the amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to hold, in violation of the nuclear deal it signed with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015, state-run IRNA reported Monday.
The news agency quoted foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as making the announcement Monday. The deal limited Iran to 300 kg (661 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 3.67 %.
Iran warned on June 17 that it would soon breach the terms of the landmark agreement if the European signatories did not act to prevent tough sanctions being imposed by U.S. that stop foreign businesses from trading with Iran and buying its oil.
Enriched uranium is used in energy production, although stockpiling uranium is also a necessary step to building nuclear weapons, which Iran has denied doing. Iran has threatened to increase its enrichment of uranium closer to weapons-grade levels by July 7.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, later confirmed Iran had accumulated more enriched uranium than allowed under the deal.
“We can confirm that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has informed the Board of Governors that the Agency verified on 1 July that Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile exceeded 300 kg of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 (or the equivalent in different chemical forms),” a spokesperson said.
President Donald Trump is a longtime critic of what he called the “worst deal ever negotiated” and in 2018 announced the U.S. would be pulling out of the agreement, which was secured under the presidency of his predecessor Barack Obama and was signed by the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China.
There can now be multilateral sanctions against Iran, for breaching the terms of the 2015 agreement have been breached — although the deal was unlikely to be effective without American support.
The news comes amid rising tension between the U.S. and Iran. President Trump called off an air strike with minutes to spare after an American drone was shot down by Iranian forces on June 20.
Ali Arouzi reported from Tehran; Patrick Smith and Alex Holmes reported from London.
Alex Holmes, Reuters and Associated Press contributed.