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Iran to enrich uranium to highest level so far after Natanz attack

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By Euronews  with AP
A view of Iran's capital Tehran
A view of Iran's capital Tehran   -   Copyright  ATTA KENARE/AFP or licensors

Iran will enrich uranium to the highest level so far, a negotiator said, following the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility which it blames on Israel.

Its nuclear site was sabotaged on Sunday in a cyber attack, which damaged its centrifuges.

The attack came as western powers continue to try to get the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal back on track, amid Iranian attempts to exert pressure on those countries to lift crippling economic sanctions.

It has been announcing a steady ratcheting up of its nuclear programme for months to do so.

Iran promised revenge following the Natanz attack, which it called an act of “nuclear terrorism”.

A negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, said on Tuesday on Iranian state TV “The damaged centrifuges in Natanz ... would be replaced with more-advanced centrifuges and more-capable centrifuges,” he said. “We insist on what we have asked. All sanctions should be lifted, we verify and then we go back to full compliance if we are satisfied with the verification process.”

The Vienna-based International Atomic Agency (IAEA) told The Associated Press that Iran had revealed it planned to begin enriching uranium up to 60% purity at its Natanz facility.

IAEA inspectors have been closely monitoring Tehran's program since the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran had already been enriching up to 20% — even that was a short technical step to weapons-grade levels of 90%.

The move to 60% had been hinted at in the past. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had threatened to go to that level in February if the country needed.

“We are determined to develop our nuclear capabilities in line with the needs of the country,” Khamenei said then. “For this reason, Iran’s enrichment will not be limited to 20%, and we will take whatever action is necessary for the country.”

Ongoing talks in Vienna are aimed at reviving the US’s role in the nuclear agreement, which former President Donald Trump abandoned.