Iran’s ability to enrich uranium troubles US lawmakers

WASHINGTON (TIP): US lawmakers in the House of Representatives said on December 4 they are concerned about Iran’s ability to continue enriching uranium under the interim agreement on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, an issue they are likely to press as global powers attempt to reach a final agreement. The concerns showed that House lawmakers could be willing to push for a new sanctions package next year that would define what Congress would be willing to accept in a final deal with Iran.

The six-month interim deal made by the United States, five other world powers and Iran in Geneva last month gives International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors greater access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and requires the Islamic Republic to halt its enrichment of higher grade uranium. But it allows Iran to continue enriching uranium up to 5 percent purity for generating nuclear power. That level is well below 20 percent pure uranium which can be converted relatively easily into weaponsgrade material.

But many lawmakers worry any enrichment in Iran is too much. “It would have been better if Iran during the course of the negotiations would stop enriching. I don’t think that would have been too much to ask Iran,” said Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It makes me question the sincerity of the Iranians,” Engel told reporters after a classified House briefing with Wendy Sherman, the State Department’s lead negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program.

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