Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium is now more than 14 times over the limit set down in its 2015 deal with world powers, the UN's nuclear agency reports.

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi (R) in Tehran, Iran, February 21, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi (R) in Tehran, Iran, February 21, 2021. (Reuters)

The UN’s atomic watchdog has said its inspectors have confirmed that Iran has started enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels. 

It’s the latest in a string of violations of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press on Tuesday that as of February 16, Iran had added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched to 20 percent to its stockpile.

Overall, it increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to 2,967.8 kilograms (6,542.9 pounds), up from 2,442.9 kilograms (5,385.7 pounds) reported on Nov. 2.

The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds). It also allows enrichment only up to 3.67 percent.

READ MORE: Khamenei: Iran may enrich uranium to 60 percent purity if needed

Restriction on inspections

Iran has officially started restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities, state TV reported on Tuesday, a bid to pressure European countries and US President Joe Biden's administration to lift crippling economic sanctions and restore the deal.

World powers slammed the restrictions as a “dangerous” move.

The state TV report gave little detail beyond confirming that Iran had made good on its threat to reduce cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

Iran's move to limit international inspections underscores the daunting task facing Biden as he seeks to reverse former President Donald Trump's decision to pull the US unilaterally out of the deal in 2018, leaving Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia struggling to keep it alive.

The JCPOA was the most significant pact between Iran and major world powers since its 1979 Islamic revolution, and Germany, France and Britain stressed their commitment Tuesday to preserving it, urging Iran to “stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency.”

“The E3 are united in underlining the dangerous nature of this decision,” the European powers said in a statement. “It will significantly constrain the IAEA's access to sites and to safeguard s-relevant information.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a new law had gone into effect Tuesday morning, under which Iran will no longer share surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities with the UN agency.

“We never gave them live video, but (recordings) were given daily and weekly,” Zarif said of the IAEA's access to information recorded by camera monitors. “The tape recording of our (nuclear) program will be kept in Iran.”

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Tehran’s civilian nuclear agency, has promised to preserve the tapes for three months, then hand them over to the IAEA, but only if granted sanctions relief.

Otherwise, Iran has vowed to erase the tapes, narrowing the window for a diplomatic breakthrough.

READ MORE: Erdogan sees window of opportunity for Iran, US on sanctions

Source: TRTWorld and agencies