Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Iran will start enriching uranium up to 60% purity after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, a negotiator said on Tuesday, pushing its program to higher levels than ever before, while still staying in place. falls short of the quality of the guns.
The announcement marks a significant escalation after the sabotage that damaged centrifuges believed to have been carried out by Israel – and could inspire a new response from Israel amid a long shadow war between nations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon and his country has twice preemptively bombed countries in the Middle East to stop their atomic programs.
Already earlier today, Iran’s foreign minister warned that the weekend’s assault on Natanz could hurt ongoing negotiations over his tattered atomic deal with world powers. These talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to return to the deal, the purpose of which is to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for sanctions relief.
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Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi, in Vienna to start informal talks on Tuesday evening, insisted on making his announcement in English.
“We believe this round of negotiations is the time for the United States to present a list and I hope that I can return to Tehran with the list of sanctions that should be lifted,” Araghchi told the English-language channel of the Iranian national television Press TV. “Otherwise, I don’t think we can go on like this. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time.”
He said authorities would also add 1,000 more centrifuges to Natanz.
“The damaged centrifuges at Natanz … would be replaced by more advanced centrifuges and higher performance centrifuges,” he said. “We insist on what we asked for. All sanctions should be lifted, we verify and then return to full compliance if we are satisfied with the verification process.”
Iran was getting richer by up to 20% – even that was a short technical step towards military grade levels of 90%.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, although the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program until the end of 2003. However, the nuclear deal prevents him from having enough stocks of uranium to be able to pursue a nuclear weapon.
The talks in Vienna aim to rekindle America’s role in the deal, which former President Donald Trump abandoned, and lift the sanctions he imposed.
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In a report released on Tuesday, but dated last week, the United States said it believed Iran was not looking for a nuclear weapon.
“We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the major nuclear weapons development activities that we deem necessary to produce a nuclear device,” according to the annual report from the office of the director of national intelligence.
The Vienna-based IAEA said it was aware of Araghchi’s comments, but did not have an immediate comment. The negotiator said a full letter explaining Iran’s position had already been delivered to the agency, whose inspectors have been closely monitoring Tehran’s program since the 2015 nuclear deal.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russian Ambassador to the IAEA, said that “those who committed an act of sabotage against the Natanz nuclear facility probably wanted to undermine the process of” relaunching the nuclear deal.
“They underestimated the possibility of significant side effects,” he tweeted. Russia is a member of the nuclear deal.
The move to 60% had been mentioned in the past. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened to reach that level in February if the country needed it.
“We are determined to develop our nuclear capabilities according to the country’s needs,” Khamenei said at the time, according to a transcript of his speech posted on his website. “For this reason, Iran’s enrichment will not be limited to 20%, and we will take all necessary measures for the country.”
Iran had previously said it could use uranium enriched up to 60% for nuclear-powered ships. However, the Islamic Republic currently has no such vessel in its navy.
Details were scarce on the weekend’s attack on Natanz. The event was initially described only as a blackout in the power grid feeding aboveground workshops and underground enrichment halls – but later Iranian officials began to refer to it as an attack.
The United States insisted it had nothing to do with Sunday’s sabotage. Rather, Israel is believed to lead the assault that damaged the centrifuges, although it did not claim it.
But before that, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued another warning to Washington.
“Americans should know that neither sanctions nor acts of sabotage would provide them with an instrument for talks,” Zarif said in Tehran alongside visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “They should know that these actions would only make the situation difficult for them.”
Zarif separately renewed his previous warning to Israel on sabotage, saying that if Iran determines that its nemesis was behind it, “then Israel will get its answer and see what a stupid thing it has done.”
Kayhan, the extremist newspaper in Tehran, urged Iran to “quit the Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, retaliate against Israel and identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage.”
Although Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, has been appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as his advisor in the past.
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Nonetheless, Iran’s withdrawal from the talks remains unlikely as President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, whose main diplomatic achievement was the 2015 agreement, hopes to convince the United States to join it and provide sanctions relief. desperately needed. But the announcement of uranium enrichment still shows growing pressure within the Iranian theocracy on how to respond to the attack.
Rouhani met Lavrov later on Tuesday and stressed the importance of all parties returning to the deal.
“We are neither ready to accept less than that, nor after having achieved more than that,” he said.
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