Iran Begins Enriching Uranium With Advanced Centrifuges During Nuclear Talks

Iran accuses Israel of 'trumpeting lies to poison' the Vienna nuke talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal

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File satellite photo by Maxar Technologies shows Iran's Fordo nuclear site, in 2020.
File satellite photo by Maxar Technologies shows Iran's Fordo nuclear site, in 2020.Credit: AP

Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow facility buried inside a mountain, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday, a move likely to raise tensions at talks in Vienna between Iran and major world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified on Tuesday that Iran fed uranium hexafluoride feedstock enriched to up to 5 percent into a cascade, or cluster, of 166 IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow to enrich it further to up to 20 percent, the IAEA said in a statement. An IAEA report last month said Iran was operating 166 IR-6 machines there without keeping the enriched product.

The IAEA reported on Wednesday that it decided to increase the frequency of verification activities at Fordow and Iran has agreed.

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Iran later accused Israel of "trumpeting lies to poison" the Vienna talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement.

The "Israeli regime whose existence relies on tension is at it again, trumpeting lies to poison Vienna talks," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter without specifying what Israeli comments he meant.

"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."

Earlier, Biden administration officials said that the current round of nuclear talks will wrap up on Thursday or Friday.

The exact timing will depend on developments in the talks, the sources explained.

However, Iran's Tasnim News Agency reported Wednesday that the Europeans who are parties to the talks, wish to put a halt to them. The agency cited a source involved in managing the negotiations, who reportedly confirmed this, and another official with ties to the Iranian negotiating team who said that Iran wishes to continue negotiating provisions of the nuclear accord to whatever extent required.

In recent weeks, senior Israeli officials have approached the countries engaged in the talks and asked that the negotiations be limited and subject to a deadline. This is based on an Israeli assessment that Tehran is seeking to drag the negotiations out to the extent possible as it clandestinely advances its nuclear program.

Iran's negotiations with the six other parties to the talks – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – opened on Monday and have been conducted by two separate teams. One established at Tehran's request has been dealing with lifting American sanctions on Iran and the other on the full return of Iran and the United States to the 2015 pact.

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