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The announcement comes on the eve of UN nuclear watchdog’s planned visit to the country

Tehran has more than doubled its capacity to enrich uranium, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Mohammad Eslami, announced on Saturday.

It has now reached the highest level in the history of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear industry, exceeding the previous rates by “more than twice,” Eslami told lawmakers in Tehran, as cited by Tasnim news agency.

He added that the generation of power by the nuclear plants “has provided considerable economic benefits for Iran, reduced the consumption of fossil fuels, and prevented environmental damages.

The announcement comes ahead of a visit by experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the republic.

At the invitation of Iran, an IAEA technical team will be in Tehran on Sunday,” the nuclear watchdog’s spokeswoman said earlier this week. The goal of the visit is to address “the outstanding safeguards issues previously reported,” she added. The agency’s chief, Rafael Grossi, is not expected to be part of the team this time.

The trip will focus on “multiple uranium particles of anthropogenic origin” reported at three locations in 2019, alleged to be former nuclear sites previously undeclared to the IAEA.

Eslami expressed hope on Wednesday that the visit “can help resolve issues with the agency.

Russia welcomes the upcoming consultations, but says it’s unlikely any breakthrough can be reached, according to Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna.

Speaking to the TASS news agency, he noted that initially the consultations had been planned for late November. However, they were postponed because of an “untimely and counterproductive” resolution submitted by the US, Great Britain, Germany and France at the session of the IAEA Board of Governors in an attempt to put pressure on Iran.

The IAEA document passed last month decried “insufficient substantive cooperation by Iran” on the issue of uranium traces, and demanded “credible explanations” and full cooperation from Tehran.

At the time, Iran’s nuclear chief denounced the IAEA’s decision as a “wrong measure” and vowed a “firm response” to the agency’s hostility.

The country’s Foreign Ministry also condemned the move as “illogical and destructive,” adding that Tehran’s nuclear program was the most transparent in the world under the agency’s oversight and had been inspected more than those of other countries.

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