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Iran Announces Increased Uranium Enrichment — U.S. Suggests New Sanctions

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced on Monday the country’s plan to increase uranium enrichment levels to 30%. The country currently enriches uranium to 3.5% and the outsources enrichment to France and Russia in order to reach the 20% level necessary for its research plant in Natanz in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency agreements. The Natanz facility is  used to produce medical isotopes. Experts have voiced concern that such an increase in enrichment capabilities would be a key step towards reaching the necessary enrichment level of 90% for weapons grade uranium. Conversely, experts have dismissed Iran’s additional announcement of plans to build ten additional uranium enrichment facilities, citing a lack of resources and infrastructure to support such plans.

Official reactions to Mr. Salehi’s announcement included criticism from the U.S., Russia, and France. U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, stated that Iran’s recent announcement may lead to new economic or diplomatic sanctions; he also voiced hope that additional action would not be necessary, given that Iran has disregarded the last three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions. France made a more direct response; Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, stated that Iran’s plans are “real blackmail.”

Iran’s latest announcement to increase uranium enrichment comes during the same week of the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Read more at BBC.

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