Iran announced on Tuesday (13) that it would start enriching 60% uranium, putting the country closer to the 90% needed to make a nuclear bomb.
The news comes two days after an explosion at the Natanz underground nuclear power plant, where new advanced centrifuges to enrich the chemical element were inaugurated.
The facility, located in the desert of Isfahan province, is the centerpiece of Iran’s nuclear program and is monitored by inspectors from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), a body linked to the UN (United Nations). The agency said, shortly after the announcement, that it had been informed by Tehran of the decision.
Chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi also said Iran would activate 1,000 advanced centrifugal machines at the Natanz plant.
The Iranian government accuses Israel of being behind Sunday’s incident – the Israelis have sabotaged the Persian country’s nuclear industry on other occasions, both with cyber attacks and with the murder of scientists in recent years. Tehran has promised revenge.
The Israelis do not deny or confirm the action, but Kan public radio quoted intelligence sources as saying that the Mossad, the country’s spy agency, carried out a cyber attack on the Natanz facility. The station also said the damage to the plant was greater than that reported by Iran.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarifo said the attack on the facilities was Israel’s “very bad bet”. The chancellor, who was alongside his Russian counterpart in the Iranian capital, also said the episode would strengthen Tehran in negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, abandoned by Donald Trump’s US government three years ago. .
Last week, representatives of the two countries began indirect negotiations with mediated Europeans in Vienna, Austria, where the pact was initially signed – and talks are set to resume on Thursday (15).
Representatives from the UK, China, France, Germany and Russia were present (the other current members of the agreement) and the chief coordinator of the European Union.
Without face-to-face negotiations – Iran has refused to meet directly with the United States – the Europeans work in a kind of intermediary diplomacy, moving between the delegations of the two countries.
The talks in Vienna are aimed at restoring the central points of the deal – restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of US sanctions.
Officially, Iran and the United States insist they want to return to the treaty, but disagree on who should take the first step. Therefore, the ongoing negotiations also aim to create a roadmap for a synchronized return to compliance with the pact. Even if there is an agreement, the verification may still take some time due to technical complications and lack of confidence on both sides.
The White House, however, said the United States was concerned about Tehran’s “provocative announcement”. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki also said that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Tuesday reaffirmed “the Biden government’s unwavering commitment. With Israel’s security and with the guarantee that Iran will never get it. a nuclear weapon “at a virtual meeting of a strategic advisory group of the United States and Israel.
Iran says it has never sought to obtain or develop nuclear weapons and that it seeks nuclear technology for civilian use in medicine or energy.
Tuesday’s announcement is not all that unexpected, however. In February of this year, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had already declared that the uranium enrichment limit would not be just 20%, and that the country would act according to its needs. , and could “go to 60%”.
The statements came on the eve of a law coming into force that aims to limit UN inspection of Iranian nuclear activity as long as US sanctions are maintained.