President of Iran calls 60% enrichment an answer to ‘badness’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Iran’s President on Wednesday called Tehran’s decision to enrich uranium up to 60% after saboteurs attacked a nuclear site “ an answer to your malice, ” linking the incident to ongoing talks in Vienna. about the torn nuclear deal with world powers.

Israel, which has no commentary on the attack, is suspected of carrying out the attack on the Natanz nuclear facility this weekend as part of an escalating shadow war between the two countries.

The escalation of enrichment could lead to further retaliation, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon. His country has twice preemptively bombed countries in the Middle East to stop their nuclear programs.

Speaking to his cabinet, a passionate President Hassan Rouhani said damaged first-generation IR-1 centrifuges in Natanz would be replaced with advanced IR-6 centrifuges that enrich uranium much faster.

“You wanted to empty our hands during the talks, but our hands are full,” Rouhani said.

He added, “60% fortification is a response to your wickedness. … we cut both your hands, one with IR-6 centrifuges and another with 60%. “

Iran announced Tuesday that it would enrich uranium to its highest level ever in response to the weekend attack on Natanz. That also includes adding another 1,000 “more advanced” centrifuges.

Officials initially said the enrichment would begin on Wednesday. However, a tweet early Wednesday morning from Iran’s envoy to Kazem Gharibadadi, the International Atomic Energy Agency, suggested it could come later. He wrote that the enrichment would be handled by only two cascades of IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges in Natanz. A cascade is a group of centrifuges that work together to enrich uranium more quickly.

“Process change has just started and we expect to collect the product next week,” Gharibadadi wrote.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, although the West and the IAEA say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program until the end of 2003. However, the nuclear deal prevented it from having enough uranium supplies to conduct a nuclear investigation. weapon.

An annual US intelligence report released Tuesday upheld the US assessment that “Iran is not currently undertaking the major nuclear weapons development activities that we believe would be necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

The talks in Vienna aim to revive America’s role in that agreement, which former President Donald Trump has given up, and to lift the sanctions it has imposed. Rouhani insisted in his comments on Wednesday that Iran is still seeking a negotiated settlement in Vienna over its program.

“The US should return to the same 2015 terms when we signed the nuclear deal,” Rouhani said.

Iran had previously said it could use up to 60% enriched uranium for nuclear-powered ships. However, the Islamic Republic does not currently have such ships in its navy. The IAEA has confirmed that Iran has informed it of its plans to enrich up to 60%.

Iran had enriched by up to 20% – and even that was a short technical step to a 90% weapon mirror.

The weekend attack in Natanz was initially described only as a blackout in the power grid that powers above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls – but later Iranian officials began calling it an attack.

Alireza Zakani, the harsh head of the Iranian parliament’s research center, referred in a state television interview to “several thousand centrifuges damaged and destroyed”. However, no other official has offered that figure, and no images of the aftermath have been released.

Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.