Iran injected uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordo nuclear complex early Thursday, taking its most-significant step away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Tehran also acknowledged blocking an official from the International Atomic Energy Agency from visiting its nuclear site at Natanz last week, the first known case of a United Nations inspector being blocked amid heightened tensions over its atomic program. These latest steps put additional pressure on Europe to offer Iran a way to sell its crude oil abroad despite the US sanctions imposed on the country since President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal over a year ago, the AP reports.
The gas injection began after midnight at Fordo, a facility built under a mountain north of the Shiite holy city of Qom, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said. A UN official from the IAEA witnessed the injection, it said. The centrifuges ultimately will begin enriching uranium up to 4.5%, which is just beyond the limits of the nuclear deal, but nowhere near weapons-grade levels of 90%. Fordo's 1,044 centrifuges previously spun without uranium gas for enrichment under the deal, which saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Iranian officials repeatedly have stressed that the steps taken so far, including going beyond the deal's enrichment and stockpile limitations, could be reversed if Europe offers a way for it to avoid US sanctions choking off its crude oil sales abroad.
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