Iran says it will increase its enrichment of uranium to 60% purity – its highest figure ever – bringing it closer to the levels needed for a nuclear weapon. It comes after an “attack” at the Natanz nuclear facility in the country which Iran has blamed on Israel as an act of sabotage. France says it is co-ordinating a response to Iran’s latest move with world powers, adding that it was a “serious” development.
Iran on Monday accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging its key Natanz nuclear site and vowed revenge for an attack that appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war. Iran’s semi-official Nournews website said the person who caused an electricity outage in one of the production halls at the underground uranium enrichment plant had been identified. Iranian authorities described the incident a day earlier as an act of “nuclear terrorism.”
Iran has made 55 kg of uranium enriched to up to 20% – the point at which it is highly enriched – indicating quicker production than the 10 kg a month rate required by an Iranian law that created the process in January. The disclosure comes a day after Tehran and Washington held what they described as “constructive” indirect talks in Vienna on Tuesday aimed at finding ways to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Iran and the major powers in the agreement to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons said Friday they are ready to welcome the return of the United States. The chair of the group including the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran said that the participants “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.”
Iran on Sunday ruled out holding an informal meeting with the United States and other major powers to discuss ways to salvage the unraveling 2015 nuclear deal, insisting Washington must first lift all its unilateral sanctions. The United States said it was disappointed but remained ready to “re-engage in meaningful diplomacy” and would consult with the other major powers to seek a way forward.
Iran and the global nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, have agreed to temporary measures to offset Iran’s decision to restrict access to inspectors. It would enable the agency to retain the “necessary degree of monitoring and verification work”, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said, without going into detail. It comes ahead of a deadline set by Iran to stop intrusive checks of sites unless US sanctions are lifted.
Iran’s supreme leader has said Tehran’s “irreversible and final” decision is to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal only if Washington lifts sanctions on the country. The comment, reported by Iranian State TV, comes as US President Joe Biden said he would lift sanctions to simply get Iran back to the negotiating table. The deal between Iran and six major powers limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activity.
New York air traffic controllers received a message threatening to avenge Iranian general Qassem Soleimani’s death. The warning was received Monday, just one day after the anniversary of the U.S. drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The threat comes as thousands of Iraqis, chanting anti-American slogans, gathered in Baghdad’s central square on Sunday to protest Soleimani’s killing.
Armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops stormed a South Korean tanker and forced the ship to change course and travel to Iran, the vessel’s owner said Tuesday, the latest maritime seizure by Tehran amid heightened tensions with the West over its nuclear program. Iran on Monday also began enriching uranium up to 20%, a small technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%, at its underground Fordo facility.
Iran is building at an underground nuclear facility, according to new satellite pictures. The images – taken on 11 December – show a structure consisting of a grid of pillars, like those used to support earthquake prone buildings. Iran has not publicly acknowledged any new construction at the Fordo site, which is near Qom, 55 miles from the capital Tehran.