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Iran slows uranium enrichment

Posted August. 14, 2023 08:10,   

Updated August. 14, 2023 08:10


Iran has significantly slowed down its uranium enrichment operations after receiving, in exchange for the release of U.S. citizens detained in Iran, the entire amount of some $7 billion in payment for its oil export to South Korea that had been frozen in South Korea. Expectations are growing that this will be the starting point for reinstating the Iran nuclear deal under the Joe Biden administration. With Biden in desperate need of diplomatic achievements ahead of next year's presidential election, there is a growing chance that the deal between Washington and Tehran will be resumed sooner rather than later.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources, reported Friday that Iran has significantly slowed down its uranium enrichment and is working on diluting the concentration of uranium it has already enriched. "We welcome Iran's steps to de-escalate nuclear tensions," the White House National Security Council’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said the same day.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal with the West, Iran agreed only to possess up to 202.8 kilograms of low-enriched (3.67 percent) uranium. After former U.S. President Donald Trump scrapped the deal in a surprise move in 2018, Tehran reacted by focusing on making highly enriched uranium (above 60 percent), which is essential for nuclear weapons. As of May this year, Iran reportedly had 114 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. That is a volume enough to make two nuclear bombs.

The White House said it "engaged extensively with the South Korean government in advance" of the deal, which was reached in exchange for the release of its citizens. However, it made clear that the frozen funds could only be used to purchase food, medicine, and medical parts, and could not be used for nuclear-related purposes.

Mohammadreza Farzin, the head of Iran's central bank, also said Saturday that the funds will be used "to purchase goods that the West does not sanction." However, he noted that Iran had converted all of the payment to euros, saying that "The principal amount was reduced by about 1 billion dollars due to the depreciation of the Korean won during the freeze period."