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Iran enriched ’17 kilograms’ of 20 percent enriched uranium, exceeding goals

Cascade of gas centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium. (U.S. Department of Energy Archives/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s parliament speaker says the country has produced 17 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium within a month, as Iranian officials continue to dismiss international calls for Tehran to return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf made the announcement during a visit to the Fordow nuclear plant on January 28.

In separate comments, the spokesman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Behruz Kalamvandi, confirmed Qalibaf’s estimate, saying there are currently 17 kilograms of enriched uranium stockpiles with a 20 percent purity in the country.

Iran, which denies pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, has vowed to produce 120 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent per year, or 10 kilograms per month on average.

About 250 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium are needed to convert it into 25 kilograms of the 90 percent-enriched needed for a nuclear weapon.

Western countries have called on Tehran to adhere to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, from which the United States unilaterally withdrew in 2018.

In response to the U.S. pullout and crippling sanctions, Iran has gradually breached parts of the pact, which eased international sanctions in exchange for curbs on its disputed nuclear program, saying it is no longer bound by it.

On January 27, newly installed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration of President Joe Biden was willing to return to commitments under the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but only if Iran returned to full compliance.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Tehran’s view that the United States should first lift its sanctions.

“Reality check for @SecBlinken,” Zarif tweeted, saying the United States “violated” the accord by imposing sanctions on Iran that “blocked food/medicine to Iranians,” among other grievances.

Zarif argued that Iran had “abided by the JCPOA” and only took “foreseen remedial measures” to the U.S. moves.

“Now, who should take 1st step?” he asked.