TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that the Islamic republic could boost uranium enrichment to 60 percent if needed, vowing to “not back down on the nuclear issue”.

That would be far above the 3.67 percent limit Iran had accepted under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but still short of the around 90 percent required to make an atomic bomb.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons, a point Khamenei reiterated in the comments that were posted on his official website. His remarks came at a time Tehran, US President Joe Biden and European powers are trying to salvage the troubled nuclear accord.

The deal has been on the brink of collapse since former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country in 2018, reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran.

Tehran responded a year later by gradually scaling back most of its key commitments. In early January, it boosted uranium enrichment back to 20 percent, the level it had reached before the landmark deal.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2021

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