Iran wants to further increase uranium enrichment

Tehran / Vienna (dpa) - After the alleged Israeli attack on its nuclear facility in Natans, Iran wants to increase the degree of its uranium enrichment to 60 percent. The country had informed the IAEA about these plans, said a spokesman for the UN atomic authority in Vienna on Tuesday.

Iran has already enriched its uranium to 20 percent, although an international agreement from 2015 actually only allows less than 4 percent.

The move was first announced by Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on Tuesday, three days after an attack on the enrichment facility in Natans, for which Tehran blames its archenemy Israel. Araghchi is currently in Vienna to lead the Iranian delegation on Thursday's new talks on the future of the nuclear deal. According to the Iranian nuclear organization AEOI, preparations for 60 percent enrichment in Natans should begin on Tuesday evening.

AEOI spokesman Behrus Kamalwandi said the uranium will be used for medical purposes. At the same time, the production of the new centrifuges, which are supposed to immediately replace the parts damaged in the attack, said the spokesman according to the Fars news agency. In 2015, Iran committed to keep the degree of enrichment below 4 percent. But after the US withdrew from the agreement in 2018 - at that time under President Donald Trump - Iran gradually failed to meet its obligations.

Tehran had previously warned of the negative impact of the attack on efforts to rescue the agreement. "The incident in Natans makes negotiations more difficult," said Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. During his visit to Iran, Lavrov even warned that the international talks would fail. At the same time he criticized the European Union.

According to the Iranian nuclear organization AEOI, the attack on Natans did not cause any major damage. "That was just a light breeze that didn't even make us shiver," claimed a spokesman. The New York Times, however, citing US intelligence officials, reported that Iran's uranium enrichment would be set back by at least nine months.

Russia is one of the countries that are trying to rescue the agreement that was concluded in 2015 between Iran, the five UN veto powers and Germany in Vienna. It is designed to ensure that Iran does not acquire the capabilities to build a nuclear bomb. New negotiations have been underway since last week.

It was only on Monday that the EU imposed tougher sanctions against Iran for violating fundamental human rights. This issue raises many questions, Lavrov criticized. "If there is no coordination in the European Union and the right hand does not know what the left is doing, it is a catastrophe." But if this decision was made consciously in the middle of talks about a rescue of the nuclear deal, it would be a mistake.

Annoyed by the sanctions, Iran cited the Portuguese ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday as the representative of the EU presidency. Instead of "blindly following" Washington's sanctions policy, the Europeans should condemn the US's punitive measures, demanded Foreign Minister Sarif at a press conference in Tehran.