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Iran has begun enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, its highest level ever, a top official there revealed Friday.
The move, initially revealed by Iran’s Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf on Twitter and later confirmed by state television, comes on the final day of talks in Vienna between countries involved in the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The young and God-believing Iranian scientists managed to achieve a 60 [percent] enriched uranium product,” Qalibaf tweeted, “I congratulate the brave nation of Islamic Iran on this success. The Iranian nation’s willpower is miraculous and can defuse any conspiracy.”
The talks had been taking place since Tuesday among all entities involved in the original Iran agreement — China, France, Russia, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union — as member countries worked to return the US to the deal.
Despite the talks, which were described as “constructive” by both sides, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran was considering enriching uranium further in response to an attack carried out by Israel on a key nuclear plant the day before.
“Of course, the security and intelligence officials must give the final reports, but apparently it is the crime of the Zionists, and if the Zionists act against our nation, we will answer it,” Rouhani claimed said during a televised cabinet meeting.
“Our response to their malice is replacing the damaged centrifuges with more advanced ones and ramping up the enrichment to 60 percent at the Natanz facility.”
While 60 percent enriched uranium falls short of the 90 percent purity level needed for viable nuclear weapons, it represents a step toward armament.
The Obama administration brokered the controversial JCPOA in 2015. The accord reduced sanctions against Iran in exchange for the country reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium needed to fuel nuclear weapons.
It also capped the purity at which Tehran could refine uranium at 3.67 percent, but did not include limitations on delivery systems and other checks on Iran being able to ultimately produce a nuclear bomb when the deal expires.
The Trump administration withdrew the US from the pact in 2018, with the then-commander-in-chief arguing that “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.”
Iran began breaching the deal shortly after, as tensions ratcheted up between Washington and Tehran.
President Biden pledged he would re-enter the 2015 deal “as a starting point for follow-on negotiations,” adding that he would only support doing so if Iran pledged to follow strict compliance measures.
Following Biden’s election in November, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, however, that his country would fully implement the terms of the Obama-era agreement if Biden lifted the Trump-era sanctions, arguing it could be done with “three executive orders.”
The administration has refused, and Tehran has continued to not abide by the agreement.
The White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on the matter.
With Post wires
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