Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever

“We believe this round of negotiations is the time for the US to come up with a list. I hope that I can return to Tehran with the list of lifted sanctions, ”said nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi in Vienna, where the talks took place. “Otherwise I don’t think we can go on like this. Otherwise, I think it’s a waste of time.”

Aragchi said informal talks would begin Tuesday evening, with a formal meeting starting Thursday.

Iran had enriched up to 20% – that too was a short technical step to a weapons level of 90%.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of media coverage of Araghchi’s comment, which was quoted by Iranian state news agency IRNA but had no comment at the time.

Press TV, the English-speaking arm of Iranian state television, announced separately that the IAEA had been informed of the move. Enrichment will begin on Wednesday.

The broadcaster also quoted the negotiator as saying that Iran would introduce another 1,000 centrifuges in Natanz without going into detail.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had threatened to achieve 60% enrichment in February if the country needed it.

“We are determined to develop our nuclear capabilities in line with the country’s needs,” said Khamenei, according to a transcript of his speech posted on his website. “Because of this, Iran’s enrichment will not be limited to 20% and we will take all measures necessary for the country.”

Iran had previously announced that it could use up to 60% enriched uranium for nuclear-powered ships. The Islamic Republic currently has no such ships in its navy.

Details about the weekend attack in Natanz remained rare. The event was originally described only as a blackout in the power grid feeding aboveground workshops and underground enrichment halls – Iranian officials later referred to it as an attack.

The US has insisted that this has nothing to do with Sunday’s sabotage. Instead, it is widely believed that Israel carried out the attack that damaged centrifuges, although it did not claim to be.

However, former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif still warned Washington.

“The Americans should know that neither sanctions nor acts of sabotage would offer them an instrument for talks,” said Zarif in Tehran while visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “You should know that these measures would only make things difficult for you.”

Zarif separately renewed his earlier warning to Israel about the sabotage, saying that if Iran finds its archenemy was behind it, “Israel will get his response and see what a stupid thing it did.”

Kayhan, the stubborn newspaper in Tehran, called on Iran “to get out of the Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, take revenge on Israel, and identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage.”

“Unfortunately, despite evidence showing the US role as the main instigator of nuclear sabotage against Iran, some statesmen, by relieving the US of its responsibilities, have (supported) Washington’s crimes against the Iranian people,” the issue said from Tuesday.

While Kayhan is a low-circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed and described in the past as an advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Such a strike remains unlikely as President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, whose main diplomatic achievement was the 2015 accord, hopes to get the US to re-join and grant much-needed sanctions relief. In the Iranian theocracy, however, pressure seems to be mounting on how to respond to the attack.

The talks in Vienna – between Iran, the world powers still in the agreement and the US – aim to revive America’s role in the agreement that former President Donald Trump abandoned and to lift the sanctions he has imposed. Iran, in turn, would return to the borders set by the deal and dilute its growing uranium supplies, some of which have been fortified up to a short step from weapon quality.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, even though the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program by the end of 2003. However, the deal prevents it from having enough uranium supplies to trace a nuclear weapon.

Rouhani met with Lavrov later on Tuesday, emphasizing the importance of all parties getting back on the deal. Russia is a member of the nuclear agreement.

“We are not ready to accept anything less than that, nor do we feel like doing more than that,” he said.

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