Iran President Hassan Rouhani (R) greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Tehran, April 13, 2021

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi says Iran will begin enrichment of 60% uranium from Wednesday, shattering the provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal with the remaining 5+1 Powers (UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia).

Araqchi issued the announcement on Tuesday, with indirect talks resuming on Thursday in Vienna between Iran, the US, the European Union, and the other powers. The declaration follows Sunday’s deliberate explosion, likely the responsibility of Israel, on Iran’s main enrichment facility at Natanz.

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency notified the organization of Tehran’s intentions.

Under the July 2015 accord, from which the US withdrew in May 2018, Iran restricted its enrichment of uranium to 3.67%. In January, the Rouhani Government announced the return to the pre-2015 level of 20% uranium, which potentially can be further enhanced to a military grade of 90%.

Iranian officials first declared in November 2019 that they could produce the 60% uranium, while saying they would remain at the 5% level.

From January, breaking the nuclear deal’s limit of IR-1 uranium centrifuges, Iran has been installing advanced models. Last Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani presided over a ceremony installing uranium gas into 164 IR-6 centrifuges and 30 IR-5 centrifuges, and launching mechanical tests on IR-9 machines.

Hours later, the explosion damaged the Natanz plant. US and Israeli officials said the destruction of centrifuges could halt uranium production for nine months. Iranian counterparts claim they will repair the damage within 4 to 6 weeks, with advanced centrifuges installed and operational.

Araqchi declared on Tuesday that Iran will add 1000 more centrifuges with 50% higher enrichment capacity.

See also After Attack on Nuclear Complex, Iran Toughens Line on Sanctions and Talks

Centrifuges at Natanz were also damaged last summer in a deliberate explosion in an above-ground building. Israel is believed to have carried out the attack, with Iranian authorities claiming they used a local employee to set the bomb.

President Meets Russian Foreign Minister

President Hassan Rouhani hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for discussions on Tuesday.

In its summary, the President’s office focused on “deepening Iran-Russia economic relations” and “the need to counter US unilateralism with the development of regional cooperation”, as well as Iranian-Russian cooperation during a record-setting spike in the virus in the Islamic Republic.

“Appreciating Moscow’s position and support for the nuclear talks,” Rouhani declared victory over the Trump Administration, “Today, the United States and the rest of the world have come to the conclusion that maximum pressure has failed, and that the only way for the United States to return…is to lift sanctions.”

Rouhani’s office claimed that Lavrov supported Iran’s position that the US must come back into full compliance with the nuclear deal. The Foreign Minister said new conditions to the deal are not acceptable.

But significantly, the statement did not mention Russian backing of the Iranian pre-condition that all US sanctions be removed before talks advance.

See also Little Progress Between US and Iran in Indirect Nuclear Talks