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‘Prolonged’ nuclear talks with US would be ‘harmful’, Khamenei warns as Iran reportedly close to starting 60% uranium enrichment

“The talks shouldn’t become talks of attrition. They shouldn’t be [conducted] in a way that parties drag on and prolong the talks. This is harmful to the country,” Khamenei said in Tehran on Wednesday.

“Most of the proposals by the Americans are arrogant and contemptuous. They are not worth looking at,” he added in remarks carried by Iranian news network Press TV.  

The US and Iran remain at a stalemate after the first round of indirect talks in Vienna over their return to the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which have been mediated by the deal’s other signatories. 

Tehran wants Washington to suspend all sanctions against Iran before returning to its obligations under the deal, while US President Joe Biden has called for Iran to make the first move.

Iran began breaching its JCPOA commitments, including limits on the amount and purity of enriched uranium it may produce and store, after Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord and instead launched a sanctions campaign against Iran.

The negotiations took a new twist this week when Iran blamed Israel for an apparent sabotage attack that caused a power outage at its nuclear facility in Natanz, an act Iranian President Rouhani branded “nuclear terrorism.”

In response to the incident, Iran announced plans to enrich uranium to a record 60% purity in Natanz, as well as to install around 1,000 additional nuclear centrifuges. The move is a further breach of the JCPOA, which only permits Iran to enrich uranium to 3.67% purity, although the country has already hit the 20% level. 

The UN nuclear watchdog has reportedly said Iran is now close to start enriching uranium to 60% purity and the installation of 1,024 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges in Natanz. On Wednesday, Reuters said it had seen a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which said Iran has “almost completed preparations” to achieve the 60% target.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the 60% move was “provocative” and raised questions about Iran’s seriousness in engaging in the Vienna talks.

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