Iran claims to have successfully enriched uranium to 60 per cent

Nuclear agency chief says any enrichment level now possible

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Iran has enriched uranium to 60 per cent, its nuclear energy agency chief said on Friday.

"The enrichment of uranium to 60 per cent is under way at the Martyr Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility" in Natanz, Ali Akbar Salehi of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran said, quoted by Tasnim news agency.

"We are now getting nine grams per hour," Mr Salehi said later on state television.

“Now, any enrichment [level] is possible if we decide it,” he said.

Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf was the first to announce Iran's enhanced enrichment capability. At 12.40am last night, "young and pious Iranian scientists were able to obtain a 60 per cent enriched uranium product", he said in a tweet on Friday.

European Union spokesman Peter Stano called Iran’s step “a very worrisome development”.

“There is no credible explanation or civilian justification for such an action on the side of Iran,” Mr Stano said.

On Tuesday, Iran said it would start enriching uranium to a purity level of 60 per cent in response to an alleged attack on a key nuclear facility.

The country's chief negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, confirmed the escalation ahead of negotiations in Vienna over the 2015 nuclear deal.

Under the terms of the deal, Iran committed to limit enrichment to 3.67 per cent, although it stepped this up to 20 per cent in January.

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidential office on April 10, 2021, shows a grab of a videoconference screen of an enginere inside Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant, shown during a ceremony headed by the country's president on Iran's National Nuclear Technology Day, in the capital Tehran. Iran announced today it has started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in a breach of its undertakings under a troubled 2015 nuclear deal, days after talks on rescuing it got underway.
President Hassan Rouhani officially inaugurated the cascades of 164 IR-6 centrifuges and 30 IR-5 devices at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant in a ceremony broadcast by state television.
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On Thursday, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was capable of enriching uranium to 90 per cent, the level required to build nuclear weapons.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said in a tweet on Friday.

After the US withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, Iran ramped up its nuclear programme and has since been cited for several breaches by the UN's atomic watchdog agency.

Iran's plans to enrich uranium to 60 per cent is a clear step towards developing nuclear weapons and an extension of Tehran's destabilising actions in the Middle East, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Thursday.

Iran blamed Israel for an attack on the Natanz nuclear plant, which took out an electrical grid and caused a blackout, resulting in damage to the centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Iran vowed to replace the damaged first-generation centrifuges with more advanced sixth-generation models, a breach of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Europe has called signatories to the nuclear deal to Vienna to mediate between Tehran and Washington on how to return to the terms of the agreement that curtails Iran’s enrichment with strict oversight in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran demands that the US lift all sanctions before it will return to the agreement. Washington, on the other hand, demands that Iran return to the deal before it lifts sanctions.

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