Iran plans to increase its degree of uranium enrichment to 60 per cent, according to a report by state news agency ISNA on Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi is to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the move, which comes just after a cyberattack at Iran’s nuclear facility Natanz.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said the attack did not cause great damages, though US intelligence found it could take uranium enrichment in Iran back several months, the newspaper New York Times reported.
Until now Iran had been enriching Uranium to 20 per cent, although the 2015 nuclear deal foresees a maximum enrichment level of 4 per cent.
Tehran blames arch-enemy Israel for the “terrorist act” on its Natanz plant in an effort to sabotage negotiations in Vienna, which are due to continue later this week, and thus the nuclear deal with the five UN Security Council members and Germany.
“We are sticking to our line: The incident in Natanz only complicates the negotiations,” Zarif said in Tehran on Tuesday during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Iran would resume its obligations under the Vienna agreement as soon as the US returned to the deal, treaty law was implemented and sanctions were lifted, Zarif said.
Lavrov, who was to have talks with President Hassan Rowhani later on Tuesday, urged haste in talks on a future for the Iran nuclear deal. “I don’t think we have much time.”
He said those who wanted to disrupt and ultimately bury the negotiations knew there was only a certain window of opportunity. “We condemn all attempts to disrupt these important negotiations,” Lavrov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Zarif again blamed Israel for the attack and called it a “war crime.”
Russia is one of the countries trying to save the agreement reached in 2015 between Iran, the five UN veto powers and Germany in Vienna. Negotiations have been under way since last week. Lavrov said he hoped it would be preserved. The prerequisite is that the US “fully implement” it.
The US unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal under former president Donald Trump, dealing it a near-fatal blow. But there have been signs that it could be revived under the new administration of Joe Biden.
At the same time, Lavrov criticized tougher EU sanctions imposed on Iran for violations of basic human rights. This matter raises many questions, he said. “If there is no coordination in the European Union, and the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, this is a disaster.”
But if this decision was taken deliberately in the midst of talks to save the nuclear agreement, it was a mistake, Lavrov said.
The Council of EU member states had agreed on Monday to tighten the punitive measures. The background is the suppression of protests in November 2019.
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