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Thursday January 23rd, 2020 2:28AM

The Latest: Japan concerned over Iran's uranium enrichment

By The Associated Press
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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The latest on U.S.-Iran tensions (all times local):

8 a.m.

Japan is expressing serious concern over Iran's decision to increase uranium enrichment above the limit set by the 2015 nuclear agreement, urging Tehran to return to its earlier commitment.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said Monday that Japan is "seriously concerned and closely watching" the development on the nuclear deal and increased tension in the Middle East.

Nishimura urged Iran to "immediately return to its commitment under the agreement and avoid any further steps that would undermine the nuclear agreement."

Iran's decision Sunday comes a year after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and has since imposed sanctions on Iran's oil exports, escalating the tension.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tehran for talks with Iranian leaders but did little to help deescalate the tension.

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3:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump is issuing a warning to Iran after its announcement that it has increased its uranium enrichment above the limit set by the nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015.

When asked about Iran on Sunday, Trump told reporters, "Iran better be careful."

He wouldn't elaborate on what action the U.S. might take, but said: "Iran's doing a lot of bad things."

Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement, spoke to reporters at an airport in New Jersey before returning to Washington after a weekend at one of his clubs.

Iran is moving closer toward having weapons-grade levels of uranium, but it's also calling for a diplomatic solution to a crisis heightening tensions with the U.S.

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6:15 p.m.

Britain is warning Iran to "immediately stop and reverse all activities" violating the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The British Foreign Office issued its warning Sunday, after Tehran's announcement that it would break the 3.67% uranium enrichment limit set in the pact. The move comes after the U.S. withdrew from the agreement last year and restored crippling sanctions on Iran.

Britain's Press Association quoted a ministry spokesman saying: "While the UK remains fully committed to the deal, Iran must immediately stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its obligations."

The spokesman said Britain is coordinating with other countries that are part of the accord "regarding the next steps under the terms of the deal, including a joint commission."

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6:05 p.m.

The European Union says parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are discussing a possible emergency meeting after Iran's announcement that it will overstep the accord's limit on uranium enrichment.

EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said Sunday that the bloc is "extremely concerned" about Iran's decision to ramp up enrichment beyond the 3.67 percent limit. She says the EU has warned Iran against such moves.

Amid growing tensions in the region, she told The Associated Press that the EU is in contact with other parties to the accord to discuss next steps, "including a joint commission."

The agreement's joint commission brings together officials from the participating nations — Iran, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, China and the EU. The U.S. pulled out of the accord last year.

The commission normally meets once a quarter, and its last regular meeting was in late June.

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5:15 p.m.

Germany says it is "extremely concerned" about Iran's announcement that it will break the limit on uranium enrichment set by the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday that it is awaiting further information from the U.N. atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, after Iranian officials announced Tehran is ramping up the level of uranium enrichment beyond the 3.67% permitted under the deal.

Earlier this month, Iran increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium beyond the cap set by the deal.

The ministry called for Iran "to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments." It said it is in contact with remaining parties to the deal regarding the next steps to try keep Iran within its terms.

The U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the deal a year ago.

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1:40 p.m.

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog says it is aware of Iran saying it will break the 2015 nuclear deal's limit on uranium enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Sunday that its inspectors in Iran will report to its Vienna headquarters "as soon as they verify the announced development."

It did not elaborate.

Iranian officials announced on Sunday that the country is ramping up the level of uranium enrichment beyond the 3.67% permitted under the deal. Earlier this month, Iran increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium beyond the cap set by the deal.

Iran's moves have come in response to sweeping U.S. sanctions, imposed after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal a year ago.

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1:25 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling on world powers to impose "snapback sanctions" on Iran after it crossed the uranium threshold laid out in the faltering 2015 nuclear deal.

Netanyahu said Sunday that enriching uranium to such levels has only one purpose — to create atomic bombs.

He says Western leaders had vowed to impose sanction the moment the Islamic Republic crossed that threshold.

The Israeli leader has been one of the harshest critics of the nuclear deal. Israel considers Iran to be its most dangerous enemy because of its nuclear program and threats to destroy Israel.

Iran made its move amid heightened tensions and a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal.

___

1 p.m.

Iran says its oil tanker that Britain intercepted in Gibraltar on Thursday was not headed toward Syria.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters on Sunday said the tanker's "destination was not Syria."

He said there was no law allowing authorities in Gibraltar to stop the tanker and it was "piracy".

Authorities intercepted the supertanker Grace 1 on Thursday, saying they believed it to be violating European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the U.S.

It came amid heightened tensions over Iran's unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. withdrew from last year.

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12:40 p.m.

Iran's deputy foreign minister says that his nation will take another step impacting its compliance with its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in 60 days.

Abbas Araghchi told a news conference Sunday that he cannot elaborate now on the nature of the next step.

Iranian officials also announced that the country is ramping up the level of uranium enrichment beyond the 3.67% permitted under the deal. Earlier this month, Iran increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium beyond the cap set by the deal.

Despite such measures, Iran has reiterated it is open to diplomacy and that is in contact with European parties to the deal.

Araghchi says Iran considers the deal to be valid and wants to see it continue.

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12:10 p.m.

Iran's deputy foreign minister says that his nation considers the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to be a "valid document" and seeks its continuation.

Abbas Araghchi spoke at a news conference Sunday where officials said Iran is ramping up the level of uranium enrichment beyond the 3.67% level permitted under the nuclear deal.

Officials said the new level will be determined by Iran's needs, but did not provide specifics. They said the new level would be reached later Sunday and would show up in monitoring by Monday.

Even while breaking another limit of the 2015 deal, Iran appears to be signaling flexibility.

The deputy foreign minister says Iran is open to negotiations with Europe, and that the United States could join such talks.

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11:35 a.m.

An Iranian nuclear official says Iran will within hours go beyond the level of uranium enrichment permitted under an unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Under the deal, the cap for uranium enrichment was 3.67%.

The spokesman for Iran's nuclear department, Behrouz Kamalvandi, told a news conference Sunday that technical preparations for the new level of enrichment will be completed "within several hours and enrichment over 3.67% will begin."

He says monitoring will show the increased level by Monday morning.

Iran made the decision a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal.

Iran has repeatedly warned Europe in recent weeks that it would begin walking away from the accord because of a maximalist American campaign of sanctions blocking Tehran's oil sales abroad and targeting its top officials.

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11:15 a.m.

Iran says it is raising its enrichment of uranium beyond the limit set by its unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference Sunday that "today we will pass" the permitted enrichment level of 3.67%, but did not provide details.

The decision comes a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal.

America since has imposed sanctions blocking Iranian crude oil from being sold on the world market.

In response, Iran on July 1 acknowledged breaking the deal's 300-kilogram (661-pound) limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile.

Experts warn higher enrichment and a growing stockpile narrows the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material for an atomic bomb, something Iran denies it wants but the deal prevented.

___

9:30 a.m.

Iran appears poised to raise its enrichment of uranium and break another limit from its faltering 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Sunday marks the end of a deadline set by President Hassan Rouhani for Europe to find a way for Iran to get around American sanctions.

State TV reports officials are scheduled to hold a news conference Sunday to discuss their plans.

This comes a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal.

America since has imposed sanctions blocking Iranian crude oil from being sold on the world market. The U.S. also sanctioned top officials in the Islamic Republic, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In response, Iran on July 1 acknowledged breaking the deal's 300-kilogram (661-pound) limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile.

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