Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said his country will enrich uranium up to 60 percent if necessitated. Khamenei's blatant comment comes amid concerns over reports that Iran continues to enrich uranium to the 20 percent levels following the US exit from the multi-power nuclear deal Tehran reached in 2015.
"Iran's uranium enrichment level will not be limited to 20 percent. We will increase it to whatever level the country needs ... We may increase it to 60 percent ... Americans and the European parties to the deal have used unjust language against Iran ... Iran will not yield to pressure. Our stance will not change," Khamenei said, Iranian media reported.
Reports said earlier this week that the United Nations nuclear watchdog held discussions with Iran's atomic chief ahead of a deadline Iran had set for partially suspending the UN inspections of its nuclear facilities and possibly expelling UN inspectors.
The stalemate began after former US president Donald Trump exited the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018. Under the deal, Iran had allowed IAEA inspectors at its nuclear sites. Now, Khamenei has said Iran still stands by the JCPOA adding, however, that Iran will not bow to international pressure from either the European Union or the US.
Not in Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons
The Ayatollah also clarified that Iran is not in pursuit of nuclear weapons, stressing the Islamic State's long-held view. But he also said if Tehran wanted to make nuclear weapons no one could stop it. He traded barbs yet again with the US and the 'Zionist clown' Israel, saying that only Islamic principles will stop the country from making the weapon.
"That international Zionist clown (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) has said they won't allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons. First of all, if we had any such intention, even those more powerful than him wouldn't be able to stop us," Khamenei said, according to the TRTWorld.
Iran has been putting pressure on the European partners to bring the US back to the discussion table, and also to get Washington to lift the economic sanctions against Tehran. Sunday's talks, the first major step in the last two years, came on Thursday when the Biden administration said it would start talks with Iran over the deal. The US move came in response to the EU offer to mediate between the two sides. Ned Price, the US State department spokesman, said Washington will accept an invitation from the European Union.
In November 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani himself said the country was kickstarting the stalled nuclear program. He said uranium was to be injected into 1,044 centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi confirmed that 30 advanced IR-6 centrifuges were to be launched in a move to accelerate the uranium enrichment process, which was in clear violation of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.