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Iran Seizes South Korean-Flagged Tanker, As It Primes To Begin 20% Uranium Enrichment

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Iran Seizes South Korean-Flagged Tanker, As It Primes To Begin 20% Uranium Enrichment

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On January 4th, Iran announced that it had seized a South Korea-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, due to environmental pollution.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) naval authority earlier said on its website that an “interaction” between Iranian authorities and a merchant vessel in the Strait of Hormuz led the ship to alter its course and proceed into Iranian waters.

Maritime security firm Dryad Global said on its website that chemical tanker HANKUK CHEMI has “likely been detained by Iranian forces” in the Strait of Hormuz while inbound to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

Two days before the seizure, Tehran had said a South Korean diplomat was due to travel there to negotiate over billions of dollars in its assets now frozen in Seoul.

“Yesterday [January 2nd], we had a meeting with First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri about our country’s blocked money in South Korea, and suggestions were made to be presented to South Korea on how to barter our money in this country with a variety of goods including COVID-19 vaccine,” Tanhaei told ILNA.

The head of the Iran-South Korea Chamber of Commerce referred to an upcoming meeting between the representatives of the two countries on the matter and said: “In yesterday’s meeting, we determined the type of commodities that can be bartered, and now we should wait and see that how much the Koreans are willing to cooperate for bartering the commodities specified in our list.”

According to the official, raw materials, medicine, petrochemicals, auto parts, home appliances, and related parts are among the prioritized items on the list for bartering.

He put the amount of the money blocked in South Korea at about $8 billion to $8.5 billion, saying: “We will consider a sum for the import of each commodity; however, the imports ultimately depend on how much the Koreans are going to cooperate in this regard.”

On January 4th, Iran said it was prepared and all set to begin 20% uranium enrichment at the Fordo nuclear site.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei announced the move.

Speaking to IRNA, Rabiei said that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has issued the order to implement the law of strategic measure passed by Majlis to remove the sanctions in the past few days.

All the necessary measures, such as informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have been taken, said Rabiei.

He added that the government’s stance toward this law has already been announced; stressing that the government is bound to implement the law.

The nuclear law, officially called “Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect Nation’s Rights,” outlines a step-by-step strategy for Iran to allegedly force the West into reconsidering its sanctions policy against Iran by increasing nuclear activities.

It stipulates that the Iranian government should take certain nuclear measures such as raising the level of uranium enrichment to 20% and suspending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in few months if the Western parties failed to honor their obligations under the JCPOA.

This move was expected, as on January 1st, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said that Iran will raise the level of uranium enrichment up to 20 percent “as soon as possible.”

“We have sent a letter to the representative of the Islamic Republic to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to submit it to the Agency. This letter was submitted to the Agency on Friday, informing it that we want to start 20% enrichment in accordance with the parliament law,” Salehi said in a televised interview.

“God willing, we will start enriching [uranium] up to 20% soon. The president should issue an order. Of course, the president has already issued a preliminary order according to which we sent a letter to the Agency and made the announcement. We are just like a soldier having his hand on the trigger, waiting for the commander to issue an order to open fire. We are ready to do this and God willing, we will do it as soon as possible,” added Salehi, a nuclear physicist.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that it has received a letter from Iran declaring the country’s intention to start enriching uranium up to 20%.

“Iran has informed the Agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant,” the IAEA statement has said in a statement.

January 3rd was the one year anniversary of the assassination of Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike, and a response by Iran is expected at any time, since several officials have said that there is no “expiration date.”

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