Nuclear chief says Iran exploring new uranium enrichment

In this Sept. 11, 2018 file photo, Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi speaks in an interview with The Associated Press at the headquarters of Iran's atomic energy agency, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 13 January 2019

Nuclear chief says Iran exploring new uranium enrichment

  • Restarting enrichment at 20-percent level would mean Iran had withdrawn the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers

TEHRAN: The head of Iran’s nuclear program said Sunday that the Islamic Republic has begun “preliminary activities for designing” a modern process for 20-percent uranium enrichment for its 50-year-old research reactor in Tehran, signaling new danger for the nuclear deal.
Restarting enrichment at that level would mean Iran had withdrawn the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that President Donald Trump already pulled America out of in May.
However, Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments to state television appeared aimed at telling the world Iran would slowly restart its program. If it chooses, it could resume mass enrichment at its main facility in the central Iranian town of Natanz.
“Preliminary activities for designing modern 20 percent (enriched uranium) fuel have begun,” state TV quoted Salehi as saying.
Salehi said adding the “modern fuel” will increase efficiency in Tehran research reactor that consumes 20-percent enriched fuel.
“We are at the verge” of being ready, he said, without elaborating.
In June, Iran informed the UN’s nuclear watchdog that it will increase its nuclear enrichment capacity within the limits set by the 2015 agreement with world powers. Iran continues to comply with the terms of the deal, according to the UN, despite the American pullout.
Salehi heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, whose Tehran campus holds the nuclear research reactor given to the country by the US in 1967 under the rule of the shah. But in the time since that American “Atoms for Peace” donation, Iran was convulsed by its 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent takeover and hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran.
For decades since, Western nations have been concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, accusing Tehran of seeking atomic weapons. Iran long has said its program is for peaceful purposes, but it faced years of crippling sanctions.
The 2015 nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers, including the US under President Barack Obama, was aimed at relieving those fears. Under it, Iran agreed to store its excess centrifuges at its underground Natanz enrichment facility under constant surveillance by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran can use 5,060 older-model IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz, but only to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent.
That low-level enrichment means the uranium can be used to fuel a civilian reactor but is far below the 90 percent needed to produce a weapon. Iran also can possess no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of that uranium. That’s compared to the 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.
Trump, who campaigned on a promise to tear up the nuclear deal, said he ultimately pulled America out of the accord over Iran’s ballistic missile program and its malign influence on the wider Mideast.
In an interview in September with The Associated Press, Salehi warned that Iran could begin mass production of more advanced centrifuges if the deal collapses.
“If we have to go back and withdraw from the nuclear deal, we certainly do not go back to where we were before,” Salehi said at the time. “We will be standing on a much, much higher position.”


Turkey: About 100,000 Syrians left Istanbul since early July

Updated 20 November 2019

Turkey: About 100,000 Syrians left Istanbul since early July

  • Authorities said Syrians not registered in Turkey’s largest city should return to the provinces in which they are registered by Oct. 30, or face forced removal
  • Turkey has deported 86,625 illegal migrants so far this year, compared to 56,000 in all of 2018

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Interior Minister said on Wednesday that around 100,000 Syrians living without approval in Istanbul had left it since early July, when the government set a deadline for Syrians not registered in the city to leave for other provinces.
As sentiment toward Syrian refugees among Turks began to sour in recent years, authorities said Syrians not registered in Turkey’s largest city should return to the provinces in which they are registered by Oct. 30, or face forced removal.
Turkey hosts some 3.6 million refugees who fled the eight-year-old civil war, more than any other country. The Syrian population in Istanbul, home to some 15 million people, had swollen to more than half a million, more than those in any other Turkish city.
Syrians registered in other cities came to Istanbul, leading to an accumulation in the city, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told parliament.
“Around 100,000 Syrian have returned to provinces in which they are registered since July 12,” he said, adding that a total of 200,000 migrants had left the city.
Turkey also houses migrants from other Middle Eastern and African nations.
On Friday, the Istanbul governor’s office said more than 6,000 Syrian migrants in Istanbul were sent to temporary housing centers in other provinces since early July.
Ankara wants to settle some Syrian refugees in a swathe of land it now controls in northeast Syria, after it launched an offensive last month against the Kurdish YPG militia.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch last month published reports saying Turkey is forcibly sending Syrian refugees to northern Syria. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called the claims in the reports “false and imaginary.”
Turkey has deported 86,625 illegal migrants so far this year, compared to 56,000 in all of 2018, Soylu said.