Iran Starts Up Advanced Centrifuges To Boost Stockpile Of Enriched Uranium

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A cascade of centrifuges mobilised to enrich Iran's uranium at the Natanz enrichment facility

IRAN says it has started up advanced centrifuges to boost the country’s stockpile of enriched uranium, warning signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal that the clock is ticking for them to salvage the landmark agreement in the face of pressure by the United States.

As a third step in Iran’s reduction of commitments under the deal, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) said on Saturday it has activated 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges for research and development purposes.

‘The capacity of these machines is many times more than the previous machines. This started as of yesterday (Friday),’ AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told a news conference in Tehran on Saturday.

The third step comes after the Europeans failed to meet a 60-day deadline to meet Iran’s demands and fulfil their commitments under the deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani first announced the decision to expand research and development (R&D) work beyond JCPOA limits on Tuesday. He gave the other side 60 more days to fulfil its commitments.

Iran says its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from US sanctions, which were reimposed last year when United States President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal.

Iran says the upcoming third phase of its nuclear countermeasures has been so devised to be reversible, as is the case with its previous nuclear responses.

European signatories of the JCPOA – the UK, France and Germany – have so far failed to provide meaningful economic incentives as required under the nuclear accord despite expressing vocal support for the deal.

As part of its previous response to the non-compliance by other parties, Iran has already increased its enriched uranium stockpile beyond the 300 kilogramme cap set by the JCPOA and begun enriching uranium to purity rates beyond the limit of 3.67 per cent.

The reductions are in accordance with Tehran’s legal rights under Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.

Speaking on Saturday, Kamalvandi said that the countermeasures seek to create a balance between its accorded rights and its commitments in a bid to force other signatories to implement the deal and ‘respect Iran’s rights’.

The spokesman added that with the third step, Iran has effectively cut back on half of its total JPressTV-Leader orders in preparation for enrichment to 190kSWU.

Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran to get ready to enrich uranium to a level of 190,000SWU without delay.

Kamalvandi added that given an initial order from the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei calling for an uranium enrichment capacity of at least 190,000 SWU, Tehran had designed a 15-year programme aiming to attain 270,000 SWU, which could be increased to a million SWU.

‘What has happened today, with the modifications that we have made in our Research and Development, is that it has facilitated the implementation of that programme in reaching a million SWU,’ Kamalvandi said.

‘When we will reach a million SWU, however, depends on our future measures in Research and Development,’ he added.

SWU stands for the Separative Work Unit that defines the effort required in the uranium enrichment process, in which uranium-235 and -238 are separated.

Kamalvandi also said the IAEA has been informed about Iran’s new nuclear steps which it will continue to monitor.

Iran says it has dismantled a fuel smuggling ring after seizing a Philippine tanker in the Persian Gulf and taking its crew into custody.

Colonel Hossein Dahaki, the commander of Hormozgan Province coastguard, said on Saturday that his forces had detained 12 Philippine nationals and their towboat.

An illegal shipment of nearly 284,000 litres of smuggled diesel fuel, worth about 323 billion rials ($2.8 million), was also confiscated as part of the operation.

The coastguard chief added that much observation and intelligence work had been done in order to identify the large-scale fuel smuggling ring.

‘Smuggling, be it in any field, has destructive consequences on the country’s economy and it requires a firm stance against organised networks smuggling goods, currency and specially fuel,’ Dahaki said.

The coastguard official added that the case would be followed up through legal procedures.

Devaluation of the Iranian rial as a result of US sanctions on the country over the past year has helped form a lucrative smuggling business across Iran’s borders.

Iran’s IRGC releases footage of foreign tanker smuggling fuel, which was seized by its naval units near the Strait of Hormuz.

Despite massive efforts to counter the illegal trade, the cheap prices of fuel in Iran still encourage traffickers to siphon it out of the country.

Gasoline is currently pumped into cars in Iran at a price of $0.09 while diesel is sold at even a lower price of $0.03. The government has considered reducing subsidies on the two types of fuel mainly to curb the illicit trade.

  • Syrian air defence systems have intercepted three drones launched by terrorists in the west-central province of Hama.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, reported on Saturday that air defence units foiled an aerial aggression after they detected and intercepted three explosives-laden hostile drones as they were approaching a main military post in al-Ghab valley on Friday night.

The report added that two drones were shot down and the ‘third was dropped and its ammunition dismantled without causing any casualties among personnel of the Syrian Arab Army’.

Large parts of the northwestern province of Idlib and parts of neighbouring Hama constitute the last major militant stronghold in Syria. Foreign-backed militants in these regions regularly conduct attacks against Syrian army troops and positions, Russia’s bases and civilian districts.

The aircraft belonged to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists.

Back on June 22nd, the Syrian army said that it had detected and shot down a hostile drone sent by the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, before it was able to strike Hama Military Airport.

Earlier in June, the Syrian army units had detected a number of drones as they were approaching a helipad of a government military site in Jubb Ramlah village, located about 189 kilometres north of capital Damascus.

On Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said experts’ estimates demonstrated that terrorists in Syria were employing Western-designed drones to launch attacks against Russian facilities in the Arab country.

His comments came two days after Russian troops foiled a drone attack by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants against the strategic Hmeimim air base in Syria’s western coastal province of Latakia.

Russia says terrorists in Syria use Western-made drones to attack Russian facilities in the Arab country.

Russia has been helping Syrian government troops and their allied fighters in ongoing battles against terrorists across the conflict-plagued Arab country.