Iran has almost doubled its stockpile of uranium enriched up to 60 percent to 33.2kg, the UN nuclear watchdog reported Thursday, as talks in Vienna almost over.
A quarterly report to member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seen by Reuters said Iran now had a total stockpile of 3.2 tons of enriched uranium.
The agency quoted a “senior diplomat” that the 33.2kg enriched to 60 percent was “around three-quarters of the amount needed, if enriched further, for one nuclear bomb according to a common definition.” Uranium enriched to 90 percent is generally deemed ‘weapons grade.’
Iranian officials have insisted that after two years of deep recession and despite inflation at 40 percent, Iran has effectively defeated the US ‘maximum pressure’ introduced by former president Donald Trump and continued by President Joe Biden. Biden came to office pledged to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which Trump left in 2018.
Iran responded to US ‘maximum pressure’ sanction sanctions by boosting its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits, including raising the 3.67% cap on the purity to which it could purify uranium to 60% and the 202.8-kg limit on its enriched uranium stock.
Several sources have said that talks in Vienna to revive the JCPOA are at a final stage and that agreement may be close. Mikhail Ulyanov, the lead Russian negotiator in Vienna in tweeted Thursday that the "long and grueling marathon" was "almost over." Ulyanov told reporters Thursday afternoon that there was little likelihood of the talks failing, that relatively small matters remained unresolved, and that foreign ministers might meet “within a few days” to sign a document of agreement.
Less convinced, Laurence Norman, the Wall Street Journal correspondent in Europe, tweeted he had been told talks were progressing on outstanding issues: "And it's unlikely but not entirely excluded that the final issues could be nailed down today. Until they are, the risk of failure remains though shrinking.”
Reza Zandi, a senior oil and gas journalist in Tehran, tweeted Thursday he had received "definitive news" that agreement on reviving the JCPOA would be reached within 72 hours. "Iran's oil is returning to the market under golden circumstances," he noted, referring to the recent jump in prices towards $120 a barrel. Iran has around 100 million barrels in storage.
"If Vienna talks do not lead to a good deal, current US administration will feel defeated in near future due to lack of timely use of diplomatic opportunities," Ali Shamkani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), tweeted Thursday.
Ebrahim Rezaei, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said Thursday that a good arrangement for Iran would see the Revolutionary Guards removed from the US list of ‘terrorist’ groups. On Wednesday Gabriel Noronha, a US State Department official under Trump and JCPOA critic, tweeted attacks on Rob Malley, the White House special envoy for Iran, claiming unnamed US and EU officials had asked him to reveal that among concessions Malley had made in Vienna was offering to lift Trump’s designation of the IRGC.