Iran announces dramatic jump in nuclear enrichment activities

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Iran announced on Tuesday its intention to "start enriching uranium to 60%", a level that would bring it closer to a military use capacity, two days after a "sabotage" of its Natanz enrichment plant, that Tehran imputes to Israel.

Enrichment to 60% would mark an additional and unprecedented step in the violation of commitments made by Iran under an international agreement reached in Vienna in 2015 to limit its nuclear program, at a time when discussions are to continue in Austria to save this pact.

In response to the American withdrawal in 2018 from this international agreement and the reinstatement by Washington of sanctions in the name of a policy of maximum pressure Against it, Iran has since 2019 freed itself from most of the key commitments made in Vienna.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi announces Iran's 60% enrichment intentions in a letter to Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear policeman, according to the official Irna news agency.

Preparations (for the implementation of this decision) will begin tonight to Natanz, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (OIEA) announced.

The 60% enriched uranium will be used to produce molybdenum for use in the manufacture of various radiation therapy products, says the OIEA.

Molybdenum is a hard metal generally used in alloys.

60% enrichment would allow Iran to quickly increase to the 90% needed for military use.

This is extremely worrying (…), will inevitably increase international tension and concern about the Iranian nuclear program, and will make it more difficult to relaunch the 2015 pact., underlines Ali Vaez, of the International Crisis Group.

A serious development, says the Elysee

The Islamic Republic, which has always denied wanting to acquire nuclear weapons, is currently enriching uranium at 20% in isotope 235, beyond the limit of 3.67% set by the agreement.

The IAEA has confirmed that it has been informed by Iran of its intention to enrich the uranium to 60%, a decision that France has condemned like a serious development requiring a coordinated response countries engaged in negotiations on the nuclear issue.

The White House, for its part, has stated that it remains ready to continue negotiations with Iran despite these provocative ads.

In his letter, Mr. Araghchi states that <q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" 1000additional centrifuges with a capacity of 50% greater will be added to the machines present in Natanz, in addition to the replacement of damaged machines "," text ":" 1000 additional centrifuges with a 50% greater capacity will be added to the machines present in Natanz, in addition to the replacement of damaged machines "} } "lang =" fr”>1000 additional centrifuges with a capacity of 50% greater will be added to the machines present at Natanz, in addition to the replacement of damaged machines by the explosion on Sunday in this nuclear complex in central Iran, adds Irna without giving further details.

Two men wearing face covers pose for a photo.

Russian and Iranian foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov (left) and Mohammad Javad Zarif pose shortly before talks in Tehran on April 13, 2021.

Photo: Associated Press

The announcements come hours after a meeting in Tehran between Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Earlier, state television reported that Araghchi had left Tehran to attend a meeting in Vienna on Wednesday on the ongoing talks.

But, according to Moscow, that meeting was postponed until Thursday.

Save the agreement

These discussions are intended to reintegrate the United States into the 2015 agreement and bring Tehran back to strict application of the text, in exchange for the lifting of American sanctions.

We are counting on the fact that we will be able to save the agreement and that Washington will finally return to (its) full implementation., said Sergey Lavrov.

Thanks to (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and maximum pressure from Washington, Iran (…) will now enrich to unprecedented levels, with less international oversight. Congratulations to all!

A quote from:Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group, on Twitter

Tehran accused Israel of sabotaging its Natanz uranium enrichment plant on Sunday, promising a revenge right in time.

According to Iran, a small explosion resulted in power failure and damage quickly repairable.

The New York Times, according to whom the operation was carried out by the Israelis, writes Tuesday from Jerusalem, citing an information officer, thatan explosive device was smuggled into the factory.

Washington has denied any involvement.

The Israelis, if they thought they could stop Iran's efforts to lift the sanctions (…), made a very bad bet., said the head of Iranian diplomacy.

On Tuesday, an Israeli channel reported that an Israeli boat had been the target of an attack near the Emirati coast, off Iran.

Discussions that promise to be difficult

The Vienna talks bring together the states that are still parties to the Iran nuclear agreement (Germany, China, France, United Kingdom, Iran and Russia), under the aegis of the European Union.

Washington is associated with it, but without direct contact with the Iranians.

Joe Biden, who took over from Trump in January, signaled his intention to reinstate the 2015 deal.

But so far Tehran and Washington are mutually demanding that the other take the first step.

By announcing the 60% enrichment, the Iranians really want to show that they are not coming back to Vienna in a weak position (…), but that will make the discussions much more complicated, says Ali Vaez.

The White House has reaffirmed Tuesday unwavering commitment from the US government in favor of Israel's security and to ensure that Iran never obtains nuclear weapons.

Read also :

  • Pentagon chief's first visit to Israel to discuss Iran
  • Nuclear: Iran to expel inspectors if sanctions are not lifted
  • Iran threatens to end surprise inspections of nuclear facilities

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