Iran said it will begin to enrich uranium up to a 60% purity level starting from Wednesday as the parties to the 2015 nuclear deal are set to resume talks in Vienna in an effort to discuss the accord which has been unraveling since the United States pulled out of it three years ago under former president Donald Trump.
The Iranian delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi, on Tuesday arrived in the Austrian capital where the top negotiator will sit down for talks with representatives of France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China as well as the European Union.
After arrival, Araqchi told Press TV that Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency about its decision to boost enrichment by sending a letter to the director of the UN nuclear watchdog.
The decision came after an act of sabotage, blamed by Iran on Israel, targeted the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran last week.
Iran has already been enriching uranium up to 20% that crosses a limit set by the nuclear deal.
An American delegation is also expected to be present at a nearby hotel in Vienna but no meeting will be held between Iran and the US as it did not happen during the two rounds of talks held last week.
Iran refused to meet directly with US negotiator Rob Malley during the talks led by the EU, whose envoys shuttled between the two sides in different hotels.
Iran has demanded that the United States first lift all sanctions, which includes a sweeping unilateral ban on its oil exports, before it rolls back moves out of nuclear compliance that it had taken in protest at the US withdrawal.
Araqchi said on Saturday that there are more than 1,500 sanctions on Iran that must be removed at once and then verified by Iran.
Negotiators say their recent talks have progressed, with both Iran and the US describing them as “constructive”.
“I am optimistic as a diplomat,” Araqchi said, even after the US predicted an “impasse” if Iran sticks to its demand that all sanctions since 2017 be removed.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Saturday that the administration of US President Joe Biden should make a “political decision” on whether to stick to his predecessor’s “failed legacy” of sanctions or to move away from that.
The Biden administration supports a return to the landmark agreement, known as the JCPOA under which Iran scaled back nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief.
The US wants Iran first to return to full compliance with its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA before rejoining the accord.