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.
In response to an attack on an underground Iranian nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz on Sunday, Iran said it would start developing 60 per cent enriched uranium – the highest enrichment the country has ever produced but still short of the 90 per cent needed for a bomb.
“The Secretary General sees a dangerous development in this resolution and a clear and sure step towards developing a nuclear weapon,” the Arab League said late on Wednesday.
“It contributes to increasing doubts about the real goals of the Iranian nuclear program, especially in the absence of need for highly enriched uranium for peaceful uses.”
The step to enrich to 60 per cent is just the latest breach of the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, since the US exited the deal and imposed sanctions on Tehran under former president Donald Trump.
The Arab League also said that the move illustrates the importance of including Arab countries in the dialogue process around the nuclear deal and sharing the region’s concerns about “Iran's destabilising policies and ongoing intervention in the internal affairs of the Arab countries.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that the country was capable of enriching uranium to a weapons-grade 90 per cent but that they were not seeking a bomb.
"Our nuclear programme is peaceful and we are not looking for a bomb," he said, adding that the US are the ones with a history of using atomic bombs, referencing US actions in Japan in 1945.
Iran has long denied seeking to make an atomic weapon and a US intelligence report on Tuesday maintained Washington’s assessment that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device.”
However, Washington has blasted the Iranian move to enrich up to 60 per cent.
Iran previously said it could use uranium enriched up to 60 per cent for nuclear-powered ships – something it doesn’t currently possess.
Europe has called signatories to the JCPOA 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, which limits stockpiles and prevents enrichment over 3.76 per cent. Washington, on the other hand, demands Iran return to the deal before it lifts sanctions.