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Iran enriched uranium at 60% for the first time

Wien Iran wants to study the possibilities of success of the nuclear negotiations in Vienna. “We will listen to the results of the expert rounds (Saturday afternoon) and then decide whether we want to continue or how we want that,” Deputy Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iranian media in Vienna on Saturday. Araghchi, who heads the Iranian delegation in Vienna, confirmed last week that Iran is not interested in endless negotiations. Tehran will end the negotiations and leave Vienna immediately if there are no prospects for tangible results.

Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov wrote on Facebook that afternoon that the meeting was over. “The participants are determined to continue negotiations in order to reach a successful conclusion as soon as possible,” he added. The progress made so far has been “observed”. He did not give any details. Russia is a supporter of the talks.

The rescue of the 2015 nuclear deal has been under negotiation in Vienna since last week. Diplomats from Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia and China are trying to persuade the United States and Iran to return to the nuclear deal and implement it in accordance with the treaty. The United States withdrew from the deal in 2018, and a year later Iran also violated nearly all of the technical specifications in the deal.

According to the head of the nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran enriched uranium up to 60 percent for the first time on Friday night. Salehi also announced that Iran can now enrich 9 grams of uranium at 60 percent every hour. Presently, uranium is enriched to 20 and 60 percent simultaneously at the Natanz nuclear facility with the new centrifuges manufactured in the country. According to the nuclear deal, only 3.67 percent is allowed. According to President Hassan Rouhani, Iran can now enrich uranium to 90 percent, thus making it suitable for nuclear weapons – but it does not want to.

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US President Joe Biden described Tehran’s progress in any way beneficial. White House spokeswoman Jane Psaki spoke of a provocation that casts doubt on the seriousness of Tehran’s new nuclear negotiations. There is no credible explanation or non-military justification for action from the EU’s perspective, said the spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

As uranium enrichment increases, Iran wants to increase pressure on the six signatories to the Vienna nuclear agreement so that US sanctions can be lifted. Additionally, according to President Rouhani, the action is a response to a sabotage attack on the Natan nuclear facility last Sunday. He blamed Israel for the act of sabotage. The Israeli government has not commented on these allegations.

The Vienna Agreement was supposed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons without depriving it of the civilian use of nuclear energy. In return, sanctions on Iran should be lifted. US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018. Trump has argued that the deal does not block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and does not allow unrestricted access for inspectors to some military complexes. With the policy of maximum pressure, the United States government at the time wanted to force the leadership in Tehran to negotiate an agreement on stricter terms. Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, is now looking for a way to revert to the accords. The time window is relatively small because Iran is set to hold presidential elections in June.

The US sanctions exacerbated the economic crisis in Iran. In particular, oil exports, the country’s main source of income, have been banned. Experts in Tehran say an end to the two-year crisis is not possible without a political solution with the United States. In addition, Iranian hard-liners took advantage of the crisis to stir up the mood against moderate President Rouhani, and thus decided the presidential elections in their favor.