U.N. Watchdog Chief: Iran’s Uranium Enrichment at Levels of ‘Countries Making Bombs’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned Iran is enriching uranium to levels that “only countries making bombs” reach, and added Tehran’s nuclear program had reached the point of no return and could not go back to where it was at the time of the 2015 Obama-led deal.

“A country enriching at 60 percent is a very serious thing — only countries making bombs are reaching this level,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday and cited by the Reuters News Agency.

“Sixty percent is almost weapons-grade, commercial enrichment is 2, 3 [percent],” he said. “This is a degree that requires a vigilant eye.”

Grossi warned Tehran’s research and development had gone too far.

“You cannot put the genie back into the bottle — once you know how to do stuff, you know, and the only way to check this is through verification [by the U.N.],” he said, adding that it would need to be a “really strong, very sturdy verification system.”

“The Iranian program has grown, become more sophisticated so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the parameters of 2015.”

His remarks come as the U.S. and Iran hold indirect talks in Vienna to discuss a return to the shattered 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with world powers from which former president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hinted Israel could take military action against Iran’s nuclear sites without U.S. approval.

“There could be a situation in which our highest goal — to guarantee that the ayatollahs don’t end the thousands of years of existence of the Jewish people — will require us to take brave and independent decisions,” Netanyahu said, ahead of a visit to Jerusalem by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

An April 11 blast at the Natanz facility saw the power supply cut and thousands of centrifuges destroyed, reportedly setting back the country’s nuclear program by nine months.

Iran blamed Israel for the attack. Rouhani addressed Israel in televised remarks at the time, saying that the uranium enrichment “is the response to your malice. What you did was nuclear terrorism. What we do is legal.”

Iran further escalated tensions on Sunday when it said international inspectors may no longer access surveillance images of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites.

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