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Iran preparing to enrich uranium, nuclear deal talks in Vienna told

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Tehran accuses Israel of ‘trumpeting lies to poison’ talks aimed at reviving 2015 pact


Iran sought to heighten pressure on western negotiators in Vienna through increasing its use of advanced centrifuges as talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal carried on for a third day on Wednesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Wednesday that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to up to 20% purity with one cascade, or cluster, of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at the Fordow fuel enrichment plant, which is about 20 miles north-east of Qom. Those machines are far more efficient than the first-generation IR-1.

The IAEA said it would “increase the frequency of verification activities at the plant and continue consultations with Iran on practical arrangements to facilitate implementation of these activities”.

The Iranian government’s chief spokesman accused Israel of lying to poison the atmosphere in the negotiations.

“Israeli regime whose existence relies on tension is at it again, trumpeting lies to poison Vienna talks,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman posted on Twitter. “All parties in the room now face a test of their independence & political will to carry out the job irrespective of the fake news designed to destroy prospects for success.”

Reports at the weekend claimed Israel had shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the US and several European allies suggesting that Iran was taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity, the level needed for a nuclear weapon.

In a statement after meeting the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, on Tuesday said Iran was trying to buy time to advance its nuclear programme and that major powers needed to come up with a different approach.

In a further sign of the difficulties ahead, the influential Iranian parliamentary research unit presented in English for the first time the kind of benchmarks and procedures Iran will set to verify that US sanctions have been lifted – its precondition for compliance.

The report calls for the designation of an Iranian body to oversee verification of sanctions relief, publishing reports each quarter. The body would have three tasks. These would be assessing the impact of sanctions removal, establishing a mechanism so that any Iranian person or entity can submit a complaint about issues relating to sanctions relief, and preparing an action plan for decreasing nuclear commitments in the event that other parties to the deal renege on their commitments.

The document also seeks a written commitment from neighbouring countries not to take action against foreign entities willing to engage Iran economically. Also required would be US official statements proclaiming that medium- and long-term economic engagement with Iran was permissible, and promising to refrain from any action damaging engagement with Iran.

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