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Iran ‘starts building key component of nuclear bombs’

Iran has started building a key component of nuclear bombs, officials from the Middle Eastern country have told United Nations atomic agency. 

The country has announced plans to begin manufacturing uranium metal, which is used to make nuclear cores, amid heightened tensions with the US. 

It comes as Iran fired cruise missiles as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman today, in a show of force before President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration.

Surface-to-surface cruise missiles successfully hit their targets in the gulf and northern part of the Indian Ocean, Iranian reports said.

Iran announced its plans to begin manufacturing uranium metal, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, as it fired surface-to-surface missiles in a naval exercise in the Indian Ocean today (pictured)

Iran announced its plans to begin manufacturing uranium metal, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, as it fired surface-to-surface missiles in a naval exercise in the Indian Ocean today (pictured)

Iran announced its plans to begin manufacturing uranium metal, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, as it fired surface-to-surface missiles in a naval exercise in the Indian Ocean today (pictured)

Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it has started manufacturing equipment to produce uranium metal in Isfahan in the coming months, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Uranium metal can be used to make the core of a nuclear weapon but Iran has not yet made any, according to senior Western officials.

Making uranium metal is prohibited by the 2015 international Iranian nuclear accord, which involves the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia, but no longer the US since President Trump pulled the country out of the deal in 2018.

Iran is trying to pressure the US into returning to the deal by ramping up its nuclear capabilities, with Biden already suggesting that renegotiating the pact will be one of his top priorities once he takes office. 

Tehran and the IAEA have not provided a timeline for the country’s manufacturing of the metal.

Iranā€™s ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharib Abadi yesterday said: ‘R&D activities related to the design of an improved type of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor started. 

Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it has started manufacturing equipment to produce uranium metal in Isfahan in the coming months. Pictured: Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility in Isfahan

Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it has started manufacturing equipment to produce uranium metal in Isfahan in the coming months. Pictured: Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility in Isfahan

Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it has started manufacturing equipment to produce uranium metal in Isfahan in the coming months. Pictured: Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility in Isfahan

An Iranian missile fired from beach to sea during a navy military drill in the Gulf of Oman today

An Iranian missile fired from beach to sea during a navy military drill in the Gulf of Oman today

An Iranian missile fired from beach to sea during a navy military drill in the Gulf of Oman today

‘Natural uranium will be used to produce uranium metal in the first stage.

‘The IAEA received the updated DIQ for Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant and conducted an inspection.’

It will take between four and five months to install the new equipment and produce the uranium powder needed to make uranium metal, Iran said.

Iran announced it had started enriching uranium to weapons-grade purity on January 4 this year.

Tehran said it was resuming enrichment of the nuclear material to 20 percent purity at the secretive Fordow bunker – more than 15 per cent higher than the 3.67 cap laid out in the 2015 accord.

Meanwhile, the Iranian navy fired surface-to-surface missiles in another show of force in the Gulf today. 

Spokesman for the exercise Admiral Hamzeh Ali Kaviani said: ‘Enemies should know that any violation and invasion of Iranian marine borders will be targeted by the cruise missiles from both coast and sea.’

Images released by the navy showed the missiles being launched and hitting their targets.

The two-day drill began Wednesday when the country’s navy inaugurated its largest military vessel. 

The exercise takes place amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and a US pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.

In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills. 

On Saturday, the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard held a naval parade in the Persian Gulf and a week earlier Iran held a massive drone manoeuvre across half the country.

Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, signed under Barack Obama.

Trump tore up the nuclear deal in 2018 by reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to stop complying with the deal by accelerating its enrichment of uranium and rebuilding stockpiles

Trump tore up the nuclear deal in 2018 by reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to stop complying with the deal by accelerating its enrichment of uranium and rebuilding stockpiles

Trump tore up the nuclear deal in 2018 by reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to stop complying with the deal by accelerating its enrichment of uranium and rebuilding stockpiles

The deal – which was also backed by European powers including Russia – had promised the regime economic benefits in return for curtailing its nuclear programme in a way that would stop it developing weapons.

Trump tore up the deal in 2018 by reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to stop complying with the deal by accelerating its enrichment of uranium and rebuilding stockpiles. 

The President has said he wants to negotiate a new deal with Tehran, but Iran has refused to enter fresh talks, urging the US to return to the terms of the original deal.

While European countries have tried to establish economic measures to skirt the American sanctions, these have been largely ineffective.    

In a live televised address to the nation earlier this month, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded the US lift its ‘brutal sanctions’ on the country. 

In a live televised address to the nation, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today demanded the US lift its 'brutal sanctions' on the country

In a live televised address to the nation, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today demanded the US lift its 'brutal sanctions' on the country

In a live televised address to the nation, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today demanded the US lift its ‘brutal sanctions’ on the country

He also said Tehran was in no rush for the US to rejoin a 2015 nuclear deal. 

Khamenei said: ‘We are not insisting nor in a hurry for the deal. But what is logical is our demand [that] is the lifting of the sanctions. These brutal sanctions must be lifted immediately.’   

Potentially complicating efforts by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the nuclear deal, Iran said last week it had resumed 20 per cent uranium enrichment at its Fordow underground nuclear facility. 

The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity.

Tehran says it can quickly reverse its breaches if US sanctions are removed. Biden, who takes office on January 20, has said the United States will rejoin the deal if Iran resumes strict compliance with the pact.

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