Dubai, United Arab Emirates-Iran begins to raise uranium enrichment to record levels on Friday, pressure negotiations in Vienna to restore nuclear agreement with world powers after attacks on major atomic sites We are approaching the weapon-grade level towards.
One official said that only a few grams of uranium gas are concentrated to a purity of up to 60 percent per hour. This is three times the previous level, but much slower than Tehran can produce. International inspectors have already said that Iran plans to do so on the ground at the Natanz nuclear site, rather than deep in the underground halls that have been consolidated to withstand airstrikes.
This move could raise tensions even when Iran is returning to an agreement in Vienna and negotiating how to lift the severe economic sanctions it faces. However, that range also provides a quick way to escalate if Iran chooses.
The announcement also marks a significant escalation after an alleged attack by Israel last weekend that damaged the Natanz centrifuge. Israel hasn’t claimed it yet, but it’s in the midst of a long shadow war between two Middle Eastern rivals.
Iran’s Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Berger Calibuff, announced the move in a Twitter post later approved by Iran’s state television.
“Young, divine-believing Iranian scientists managed to achieve a 60 percent enriched uranium product,” said Qalibaf. “I congratulate the brave country of Islamic Iran for this success. The willpower of the Iranian people is miraculous and can alleviate any conspiracy.”
According to state television, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, Iran’s private nuclear sector, later approved the transition to 60 percent. According to Ali Akbar Salehi, the centrifuge currently produces 9 grams per hour, but will drop to 5 grams per hour in the next few days.
“Now, if we decide on that, any enrichment (level) is possible,” Salehi said.
State television later called the decision “a manifestation of power over terrorist violence.”
It was not clear why the first announcement came from Qalibaf, a strong former leader of the Paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps, who had already been nominated as presidential candidate in Iran’s next June elections.
60 percent is higher than any level of uranium previously enriched by Iran, but still lower than the weapon-grade level of 90 percent.
Iran has been enriched up to 20%, but it was still a short technical step to the weapons grade. The deal limited Iran’s enrichment to 3.67 percent.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees Iran’s nuclear program, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Earlier this week, it sent the inspector to Natanz, confirming that Iran was preparing to begin a 60 percent enrichment at the site’s ground facility.
Enhanced enrichment could stimulate further reaction from Israel in a lengthy shadow war between nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to never allow Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons, and his country slammed the Middle Eastern nations twice to suspend its atomic program.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi mentioned Iran in a tweet after meeting with Cyprus respondents during his visit to Cyprus.
“We talked about bilateral relations between Israel and Cyprus and regional issues. Most importantly, stopping Iran’s offensive activity in the Middle East, which undermines regional stability and poses a danger to the world. It’s important, “he wrote.
Iran claims that the nuclear program is peaceful, but the West and the IAEA state that Tehran had an organized military nuclear program until the end of 2003. In order to manufacture nuclear weapons, we will need weapons development activities that we judge. “
Iran has previously stated that nuclear ships can use up to 60 percent enriched uranium. However, the Islamic Republic currently does not have such a ship in its Navy.
The threat of higher enrichment by Iran has already been criticized by the United States and three European countries participating in the deal (France, Germany and the United Kingdom). On Friday, European Union spokesman Peter Stano called Iran’s decision a “very worrisome development.”
“There is no credible explanation or civilian justification for such behavior on the Iranian side,” Stano said. The Vienna talks aim to “ensure Iran to return from steps that move further away from fulfilling its promises and obligations.”
Former President Donald Trump has unilaterally withdrawn the United States from the 2018 2015 nuclear deal.
The weekend attack in Natanz was initially described only as a power grid outage that powers both ground workshops and underground enrichment halls, but later Iranian authorities began calling it an attack. ..
“Thousands of centrifuges have been damaged and destroyed,” Alireza Jahanbakni, a hardline chief of the Iranian Parliament’s Research Center, said in a state television interview. However, other officials have not provided that number and no images of the aftermath have been released.
Satellite images of Planet Labs Inc. obtained by The Associated Press show that the facility has no obvious ground damage.