Iran begins 20% uranium enrichment, seizes South Korean ship

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Iran began ignoring uranium levels from Monday following its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and a near-critical strait of Hormuz for a double-bar challenge in the West Seized a South Korean-flagged tanker. Thereafter, tensions in the Middle East increased.

Both decisions appeared aimed at increasing Tehran’s leverage during Vanprastha’s days in office for President Donald Trump, whose unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 triggered a series of escalating events.

The increase in its underground Fordo facility kept Tehran a technical step away from the 90% level of weapons-grade, while pressuring President-elect Joe Biden to negotiate quickly. MT Hanuk Chemie’s seizure of Iran comes as a South Korean diplomat was due to travel to the Islamic Republic to discuss the release of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets in Seoul.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif acknowledged Tehran’s interest in leveraging the situation in a tweet about his nuclear enrichment.

“Our measures are completely reversible upon full compliance by all,” he wrote.

At Fordo, Iranian nuclear scientists, under the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, loaded more than 130 kilograms (285 lb) of centrifuges to grow up to 20%, Kazam, Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations nuclear agency Garibabadi said. .

The IAEA later described the Fordo setup as three sets of two interconnected cascades, including 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges – Iran’s first generation centrifuges. A waterfall is a group of centrifuges that more rapidly enrich uranium.

Iranian state television quoted government spokesman Ali Rabi as saying that President Hassan Rouhani had ordered to start production. This came when its parliament passed a bill, later ratified by the Constitutional Watchdog, which was intended to increase pressure to provide pious relief to Europe.

The US State Department criticized Iran’s move as a “clear effort to step up the campaign for nuclear proliferation”.

“The United States and the rest of the international community will assess Iran’s actions,” the State Department said. “We are confident that the IAEA will monitor and report on any new Iranian nuclear activities.”

Iran informed the IAEA of its plans to increase enrichment by 20% last week.

A decade ago Iran’s decision to enrich 20% purity almost triggered an Israeli strike to target nuclear facilities that only ended with the 2015 nuclear deal, in which Iran imposed economic sanctions Instead of raising, he had limited his promotion.

The resumption of 20% promotion may lead to a return to brisenmanship. Already, a November attack said Tehran killed an Iranian scientist on Israel who established the country’s military nuclear program two decades ago.

From Israel, which has its own undeclared nuclear weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Iran’s enrichment decision, stating that “any way other than the continuation of realizing its goal of developing a military nuclear program Cannot be explained in kind. “

“Israel will not allow Iran to build nuclear weapons,” he said.

Tehran has long kept its nuclear program peaceful. The US State Department says that like last year, it “continued to assess that Iran is not currently involved in significant activities associated with the design and development of nuclear weapons.” Previous reports by US intelligence agencies and the IAEA have revealed this, although experts have warned that Iran currently has enough less rich uranium for at least two nuclear weapons if it chooses to pursue them.

Meanwhile, Iran’s paramilitary revolutionary guards seized MT Hanuk Chemi, whose photographs were later released showing the tanker with its ships. Satellite data from showed the tanker from the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on Monday.

The ship was traveling to Fujairah from a petrochemical facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. According to data-analysis firm Refinitive, the vessel makes a chemical shipment including methanol.

Iran alleged that it seized the vessel, as it polluted the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through the narrow mouth of the Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil passes.

The US State Department called for the immediate release of the tanker, accusing Iran of threatening “for naval rights and freedoms” to “evacuate the international community to relieve the pressure of sanctions”.

Calls to the ship’s listed owner of Busan’s DM Shipping Co. Ltd. of South Korea were not answered after Monday’s business. South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted an unnamed company official as saying that Irani claimed the ship to be water polluted.

“The captain asked why we had to go and it should be investigated and no response was received,” Yonhap quoted the officer as saying.

In the past months, Iran has stepped up pressure on South Korea to unlock some $ 7 billion in frozen assets from the sale of oil earned before the Trump administration tightened restrictions on the country’s oil exports. The head of Iran’s central bank recently announced that the country tied up in a South Korean bank to purchase the coronavirus vaccine through COVAX, an international program designed to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to participating countries. Wanted to use the money.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement demanding the ship’s release that its crew was safe. According to the guard, the crew consisted of sailors from Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea and Vietnam. South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said it was sending its anti-piracy unit to the Storm of Hormuz, a 4,400-tonne class destroyer with about 400 troops.

Cmdr. US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet spokesman Rebecca Rebarich said officials were monitoring the situation. Last year, Iran similarly seized a British flagged oil tanker and kept it closed for months after its tankers were shut down from Gibraltar.

Incidents coinciding with the anniversary of the US drone attack killed Guard General Qasim Soleimani in Baghdad. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at US bases in Iraq, injuring dozens of American soldiers. Tehran also accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that night, killing all 176 people.

As the anniversary drew closer and apprehensions grew, Iran retaliated by sending B-52 bombers into the region and ordering a nuclear-powered submarine in the Persian Gulf.

Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said late Sunday that he changed his mind about sending aircraft carrier USS Nimitz home from the Middle East and would instead put the vessel on duty. He cited Iranian threats against Trump and other US government officials, without elaborating, the reason for the redistricting.

Last week, sailors discovered a mine tied to a tanker in the Persian Gulf, far from Iraq near the Iranian border, as it prepared to transfer fuel to another tanker owned by a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange . No one has claimed responsibility for the mining, though it comes after similar attacks near the Strait of Hormuz in 2019 that the US Navy accused Iran. Tehran denied involvement.


Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul and Robert Burns and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.


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