Dubai: Iran will begin enriching uranium up to 60 per cent purity after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, a negotiator said, pushing its program to higher levels than ever before though still remaining short of weapons-grade.
The announcement on Tuesday, local time, marks a significant escalation after the sabotage, suspected of having been carried out by Israel, that damaged centrifuges. It could inspire a further response from Israel amid a long-running shadow war between the nations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon and his country has twice pre-emptively bombed Middle East nations to stop their atomic programs.
Already earlier in the day, Iran’s foreign minister had warned that the weekend assault at Natanz could hurt ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers. Those talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to re-enter the agreement, the goal of which is to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment in exchange for relief on sanctions.
Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi, in Vienna to begin informal talks on Tuesday night, made a point to make his announcement in English.
“We believe this round of negotiations is the time for the US to present a list and I hope that I can go back to Tehran with the list of sanctions which should be lifted,” Araghchi told Iranian state television’s English-language arm Press TV. “Otherwise, I don’t believe we can continue like this. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time.”