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Iran has begun the process of producing enriched uranium metal, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Tuesday, a move that could help it develop a nuclear weapon and that three European powers said threatened talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Iran’s steps, which were disclosed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and which Tehran said were aimed at developing fuel for a research reactor, also drew criticism from the United States, which called them an “unfortunate step backwards.” U.S. and European officials made clear that Iran’s decision would complicate, and potentially torpedo, indirect U.S.-Iranian talks seeking to bring both nations back into compliance with the 2015 deal, which was abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump. The deal imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme to make it harder for Tehran to develop fissile material for nuclear weapons in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. After Trump withdrew, Iran began violating many of its restrictions. Tehran has already produced a small amount of uranium metal this year that was not enriched.

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