TEHERAN • Iran has enriched 24 tonnes of uranium since the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the head of its nuclear agency was reported to have told lawmakers yesterday.
If confirmed, the claim, which was reported by Iranian media, would suggest that Iran has produced far more enriched uranium than was previously known and that it has exceeded the deal's limit many times over.
The Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran's Mr Ali Akbar Salehi also said that Iran was moving to restart activity at the heavy water nuclear reactor at the Arak facility.
It was unclear from the reports over what period the enrichment may have happened.
Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities and its heavy water nuclear reactor were both placed under restrictions by the 2015 deal for fear that they could be used by Iran to pursue a nuclear weapons programme.
Tensions between Iran and the US have worsened following Washington's withdrawal from the deal last year.
The Trump administration this year stepped up a campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran to force Teheran to agree to stricter limits on its nuclear capacity.
Iran and the other remaining parties to the deal - Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia - yesterday held an emergency meeting in Vienna in response to the escalation in tensions.
Iran's senior nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said after the talks that the atmosphere was "constructive", but there remained unresolved issues.
Meanwhile, a government spokesman for Iran yesterday slammed as "provocative" a British proposal for a European-led naval mission to escort tankers in the Gulf amid soaring tensions over the seizure of ships in the region.
Britain said last Monday it was planning a European-led force to escort tankers through the world's busiest oil shipping lane in response to Iran's seizure of a UK-flagged vessel on July 19.
Britain last Thursday ordered its navy to escort UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz, where the British-flagged vessel, Stena Impero, was seized by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The seizure of the Stena Impero came two weeks after the British authorities seized an Iranian tanker - the Grace 1 - off its overseas territory Gibraltar on allegations it was breaching European Union sanctions on Syria.
"We heard that they intend to send a European fleet to the Persian Gulf, which naturally carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions," said government spokesman Ali Rabiei.
Mr Rabiei said Iran believed that the security of the oil-rich Gulf had to be maintained by countries in the region, the Isna news agency reported.
Britain has so far received only a cool response from the continent, with France last Thursday saying it was not willing to send extra military assets, but would share information.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS