Iran is pushing for uranium to be enriched to 60 percent purity, and President Hassan Rouhani calls the move a response to the “wickedness” of the recent sabotage at a major nuclear power plant he has accused Israel of.
“Of course the security and intelligence officials have to submit the final reports, but apparently it is the Zionists’ crime, and if the Zionists take action against our nation, we will respond,” Rouhani claimed in a television cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
“Our response to their malice is to replace the damaged centrifuges with more advanced ones and increase the enrichment at the Natanz plant to 60%.”
The Natanz facility, a key part of Iran’s nuclear program, mysteriously lost power on Sunday, not long after it put advanced centrifuges into operation to accelerate uranium enrichment.
The next day, Iran blamed Israel for it and promised to take revenge.
While 60 percent enriched uranium does not achieve the 90 percent purity required for viable nuclear weapons, this is a step towards armaments.
According to a 2015 agreement, which Iran has no longer adhered to since the US withdrew in 2018, Iran is prohibited from enriching more than 3.67 percent uranium.
Iranian officials have claimed it is not the nation’s intention to develop nuclear weapons.
The Israeli government took no responsibility for the sabotage of Natanz, but Israeli media reported that Mossad activists carried out a cyber attack against an Iranian nuclear facility.
The development came when the world powers met in Vienna to find a way for the US to re-enter the deal and ensure that Iran honors its terms.
“You wanted to empty our hands during the talks, but our hands are full,” said Rouhani, referring to those discussions. “Sixty percent enrichment is an answer to your malevolence. … We cut off both your hands, one with IR-6 centrifuges and one with 60 percent. “
On Wednesday, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which were also parties to the 2015 agreement, issued a statement expressing “great concern” about Iran’s stance.
“This is a serious development as the production of highly enriched uranium is an important step in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon,” the countries said. “Iran has no credible civil need for enrichment at this level.”
Saudi Arabia, a regional rival with Iran, made a similar statement.
“The kingdom calls on Iran to avoid escalation and to stop exposing the security and stability of the region to tension and to seriously participate in the ongoing negotiations,” the nation said.