Iran begins 60% uranium enrichment. Above IAEA inspectors at Iran's Natanz nuclear plant on Wednesday. Photo Fars News

Iran begins 60% uranium enrichment. Above IAEA inspectors at Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant on Wednesday. Photo Fars News

Agency Report

Iran scaled up its uranium enrichment up to 60% purity Friday, its highest level ever after an attack, suspected to be by Israel, targeted its Natanz nuclear site.

Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf made this known on state television.

He did not elaborate on the amount Iran planned to enrich.

But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that his country has the capability to produce enriched uranium to the purity level of 90%.

He however said it is not seeking to manufacture an Atomic bomb.

President Rouhani dismissed the US and the three major European countries’ concerns after Iran’s announcement of starting uranium enrichment to 60% level as “wrong”.

The 60 percent enrichment of uranium is likely to raise tensions as Iran negotiates with world powers in Vienna over a way to allow the U.S. back into the agreement and lift the crushing economic sanctions it faces.

The announcement also marks a significant escalation after the sabotage that damaged centrifuges, an attack this past weekend suspected of having been carried out by Israel.

While Israel has yet to claim it, the country is widely suspected of having carried out the still-unexplained sabotage at Natanz, Iran’s main enrichment site.

“The will of the Iranian nation is a miracle-maker and it will defuse any conspiracy,” state television quoted Qalibaf as saying.

He said the enrichment began just after midnight Friday.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the country’s civilian nuclear arm, later acknowledged the move to 60%, according to state TV.

Ali Akbar Salehi said more details would be forthcoming and declined to further elaborate.

It wasn’t clear why the first announcement came from Qalibaf, a hard-line former leader in the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard already named as a potential presidential candidate in Iran’s upcoming June election.

While 60% is higher than any level Iran previously enriched uranium, it is still lower than weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Iran had been enriching up to 20% — even that was a short technical step to weapons grade. The deal limited Iran’s enrichment to 3.67%.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this week, it sent its inspectors to Natanz and confirmed Iran was preparing to begin 60% enrichment at an above-ground facility at the site.

The heightened enrichment could inspire a further response from Israel amid a long-running shadow war between the nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon and his country has twice preemptively bombed Mideast nations to stop their atomic programs.

The weekend attack at Natanz was initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls — but later Iranian officials began calling it an attack.

Alireza Zakani, the hard-line head of the Iranian parliament’s research center, referred to “several thousand centrifuges damaged and destroyed” in a state TV interview.

However, no other official has offered that figure and no images of the aftermath have been released.