Tehran, Iran – Iran could boost its uranium enrichment to a purity of 60 percent if the country needs it, Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei said, upping the stakes in a standoff with the West over the country’s 2015 nuclear deal.
“We are determined to gain nuclear capabilities proportionate to the country’s needs and for this reason, the limit for Iran’s enrichment won’t be 20 percent,” Khamenei was quoted as saying in a speech on Monday to members of the Assembly of Experts.
“Iran will act to whatever level is necessary. For instance, for nuclear advancement, we might even increase it to 60 percent.”
Khamenei, however, emphasised that this does not mean Iran is after nuclear weapons, saying the West and Israel know this as well but want to use the excuse to “extort” Iran.
“If the Islamic republic had made the decision to achieve nuclear weapons, [Israel] and those bigger than that couldn’t stop it,” he said.
His remarks come as European powers and the United States, which abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018, are in disagreement with Iran over how to restore it and lift sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump.
The nuclear deal capped Iran’s uranium enrichment purity at 3.67 percent.
But one year after the US pulled out, Iran gradually scaled back its commitments, and, among other things, boosted enrichment to 4.5 percent.
After top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in November last year, the parliament passed a law that demanded 20 percent enrichment.
The law also obliges the administration of President Hassan Rouhani to limit international nuclear inspections from Tuesday.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Iran will end the implementation of the Additional Protocol that allows the United Nations nuclear watchdog to carry out snap inspections at sites not declared to the agency.
“As of midnight tonight [20:30 GMT], we will not have … commitments beyond safeguards. Necessary orders have been issued to the nuclear facilities,” Tasnim quoted Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s envoy at the International Atomic Energy Agency, as saying.