Iranian president pledges to continue nuclear activities

President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that Iran would continue its nuclear development activities as talks to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers remained stalled, state media reported.

Speaking at a ceremony marking Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, the hardline president said his administration would support an acceleration of research into peaceful nuclear technology.

“Our nuclear knowledge and technology are not reversible. Iran’s (continuation) of research in peaceful nuclear fields will not depend on the demands or views of others,” said Raisi, who came to power in August.

Raisi’s comments came as talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal stalled. It is feared that Iran would be no closer to being able to build an atomic weapon if it chose to pursue one.

The nuclear deal collapsed four years ago when former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States and imposed crushing sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, Iran has greatly expanded its nuclear work.

Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program has peaceful purposes like the production of electricity and medical isotopes.

During Saturday’s ceremony, Iran showcased its new civilian nuclear achievements, including several medical isotopes, agricultural pesticides, detoxification equipment and nuclear fuel. The report did not give details.

The head of Iran’s Civil Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, said Iran will soon proceed with the construction of a new nuclear power plant with a capacity of 360 megawatts. It is to be located near the town of Darkhovin in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in the southwest of the country.

The plant was to be built before the 1979 Islamic revolution with the help of France, but the project was halted in its initial phase. The site became a major battleground in the 8-year war between Iran and Iraq which began in 1980.

Iran’s only nuclear power plant, with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, was commissioned in 2011 with Russian help in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium continues to grow and it is currently enriching it to 60% purity. This is the highest level ever achieved by Iran and a short technical step from military grade levels of 90%. It is well above the 3.67% ceiling of the nuclear agreement.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Iran imposed symbolic sanctions on other US officials for their role in the attacks on Iran, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The list of 16 people included George William Casey, former commander of US forces in Iraq; Joseph Votel, former commander of CENTCOM; former Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan Austin Scott Miller; US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and other US officials from the former Trump administration.

From time to time, Iran is added to a long list of sanctioned Americans. In January, Iran sanctioned more than 50 Americans for their alleged role in the killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq in 2020. In 2021, Iran imposed sanctions on Trump, the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and eight others.

The sanctions prohibit the targeted individuals from traveling to Iran and possible confiscations of their assets in Iran. They are considered symbolic because the Americans have no assets in Iran.

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