Work reportedly taking place at Natanz nuclear facility • Israeli media reports rising tension between Jerusalem and Washington against backdrop of nuclear talks in Vienna.
(April 18, 2021 / JNS)
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed on Saturday that Iran had begun the process of enriching uranium to a purity level of 60 percent, the closest level yet to the 90 percent required to make a nuclear bomb.
The work is taking place at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility, Reuters reported on Saturday. Thousands of uranium enrichment centrifuges were damaged or destroyed in a blast that tore through the facility on April 11, according to an Iranian official. Tehran has accused Israel of being behind the incident, which it has called “nuclear terrorism” and sworn revenge.
Until now, Iran has only enriched uranium to 20 percent—itself a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, which restricted the Islamic Republic to the 3.67 percent level.
Meanwhile, Iranian state television said on Saturday that the country’s intelligence agencies had identified one Reza Karimi as a suspect in the Natanz blast. Karimi had fled Iran shortly before the explosion, according to a BBC report.
In recent days, Hebrew media reports have indicated that Washington and Jerusalem are experiencing increased diplomatic tensions over recent events concerning Iran. A Channel 12 news report on Friday said that the Biden administration had passed multiple messages to Israel calling for a cessation of “chatter and boastfulness” regarding alleged Israeli actions against Iran, and calling alleged Israeli remarks on the matter dangerous, embarrassing and a threat to U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran.
Israel Hayom reported on Sunday that Jerusalem is “deeply disappointed” over the “total American capitulation” in nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna.
The report said that six world powers and Iran are close to signing an agreement that would return them to the original deal, which former President Donald Trump quit in 2018. According to the report, Iran will not be required to destroy the new, advanced centrifuges it has built, but rather just to disconnect them from enrichment machinery.