Western Morning News

Incidents in Iran escalate tension


IRAN has begun enriching uranium up to 20% at an undergroun­d facility and has seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the crucial Strait of Hormuz, further escalating tensions in the Middle East between Tehran and the West.

The announceme­nt of enrichment at Fordow came as fears rose that Tehran had seized the MT Hankuk Chemi, which was reportedly carrying ethanol. Iran later acknowledg­ed the seizure, alleging the vessel’s “oil pollution” sparked the move.

However, hours earlier, Tehran said a South Korean diplomat was expected to visit in the coming days to negotiate the release of billions of dollars in its assets now frozen in Seoul.

The incidents come amid heightened tensions between

Iran and the United States in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term in office. During Mr Trump’s tenure, he unilateral­ly withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018, which increasing­ly strained relations between the countries.

Iranian state television said that President Hassan Rouhani had given the order for the move at the Fordow facility. A resumption of 20% enrichment represents a level of purity that is only a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90% enrichment.

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