Iran’s Supreme Leader: We will increase nuclear enrichment capacity

Iran is threatening to boost its nuclear enrichment program to levels in breach of the 2015 agreement. 

By: World Israel News Staff and AP

Iran’s top leader threatened that anyone who fires one missile at his country “will be hit by 10” in response, but he dismissed fears of a possible regional war as “propaganda” by the West.

Addressing thousands of Iranians at a ceremony Monday in tribute to the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Europeans should “avoid miscalculations” leading them to believe that if they fail to stand up against US sanctions, Iran will continue to abide by its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“The Iranian nation will not tolerate both sanctions and nuclear restrictions,” he stated, according to Iran’s Fars news.

Khamenei said he has ordered atomic authorities to increase the country’s nuclear enrichment capacity.

“The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran should also take the introductory measures for the execution of the President’s order from tomorrow,” he stated.

The increase, 190,000 SWUs (Separate Working Units of uranium enrichment), would not exceed limits set by the nuclear accord, which European countries have said they hope to salvage.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said last week that Tehran is capable of and prepared to increase the amount and level of its uranium enrichment.

“We have done the needed preparations in different fields to return to the pre-nuclear deal era, but we hope never to reach that point,” Salehi told reporters.

“If we decide to develop certain operations, including enrichment, we will be ready to increase production enrichment, for instance,” he added.

Salehi will reportedly inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UN’s nuclear watchdog, of increased production of UF6 gas meant to be injected into centrifuges banned from use under the nuclear accord.

Khamenei’s remarks came as Iran and the Europeans are in talks on how to preserve the nuclear deal after the US withdrew from the agreement.

President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the US would no longer remain part of the JCPOA and promised to re-impose the highest level of economic sanctions against Iran in response to Tehran’s development of its nuclear program.

In the meantime, Yukiya Amano, director of the IAEA, called on Iran to provide “timely and proactive cooperation” during inspections that are part of the deal meant to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

Amano spoke Monday to the board of governors of the IAEA in Vienna. Last month, in its first report since the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the IAEA said that Iran has remained below the maximum level to which it allowed to enrich uranium and appears to be fulfilling other obligations. But Iran is slow when it comes to “complementary access” inspections, the report added.

“Timely and proactive cooperation by Iran in providing such access would facilitate implementation … and enhance confidence,” Amano said.

Netanyahu seeking to alter deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Monday for a round of diplomatic meetings in Berlin, Paris and London with the future of the Iran nuclear deal in focus.

Israel is hoping that the American withdrawal will lead the European leaders to address the deal’s shortcomings, including “sunset” provisions that end restrictions on Iranian nuclear activities in less than a decade as well as permitting Iran to continue developing long-range missiles that could eventually deliver nuclear warheads to targets around the globe.

In a joint press conference with Merkel, Netanyahu noted that Khamenei “said again that Israel is a cancer that has to be eradicated, will be eradicated from the earth. And this is amazing that in the beginning of the 21st century, somebody talks about destroying Israel. It means destroying another six millionplus Jews. It’s quite extraordinary that this goes on, but this is what we face.”

“And it’s important to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We commit, and I commit again, that we will not let that happen,” he stated.