Iran announced on Saturday that it had embarked on a series of high-level uranium enrichment measures that had broken its promises under the 2015 nuclear deal, days after negotiations began to rescue the treaty.
The United States said on Friday it had offered “very serious” ideas to renew the deal but was waiting for Tehran to return, which Saturday’s action failed to do.
President Hassan Rouhani unveiled a 164-centric IR-6 uranium enrichment explosive, and two test cassettes – 30 IR-5 devices and 30 IR-6S respectively – at the uranium enrichment facility of Iran, at a state television broadcast event.
State TV did not produce images of the uranium hexafluoride injection on the cassettes, but broadcast contact with the plant’s engineers who said they had started the process and showed centrifuges.
Rouhani also introduced tests on the “mechanical strength” of the latest IR-9 centrifuges, and remotely opened a centrifuge assembly factory to replace a plant that was badly damaged during the July 2020 “terrorist” explosion.
Under the 2015 agreement between Tehran and world power, Iran is currently only allowed to use the “first generation” IR-1 centrifuge to produce, and to test a limited number of IR-4 and IR-5 devices.
The United States simultaneously withdrew from the 2018 nuclear deal under then-president Donald Trump, who also imposed sanctions on Tehran, which responded by withdrawing from most of its agreements under the treaty.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden said he was ready to return, saying the agreement would – until Washington’s withdrawal – succeed in significantly reducing Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran’s latest move to boost uranium enrichment follows initial talks in Vienna on Tuesday with representatives of the remaining parties to a deal to bring the United States back into it.
The Vienna talks focus not only on lifting the economic sanctions imposed by Trump, but also on bringing Iran back on track.
All sides say talks, in which Washington does not directly participate but relies on the European Union as a mediator, have started well.
Iran has demanded that the US first lift all sanctions imposed by Trump, including one ban on oil exports, before it returns to the line.
“The US – which has created this crisis – must return to full compliance first,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter, adding that “Iran will retaliate after immediate confirmation.”
‘Sensitivity of purpose’
Washington wants to move to Tehran.
“The U.S. delegation expressed a very serious view and expressed the seriousness of the intention to return to the rule of law if Iran were to return to law,” a U.S. official told reporters as talks began over the weekend.
But the official said the United States had been waiting for its “repatriation” efforts by Iran.
The U.S. official pointed out that the main obstacle to the initial talks was not to follow the law but rather what sanctions were being discussed, as Iran wants to end all US sanctions.
The nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, only includes nuclear sanctions and not US measures taken to respond to human rights or other concerns, the official said.
The powerful centrifuges launched on Saturday allow uranium to be processed faster and at greater prices than Iran’s first-generation devices.
Enriched uranium can produce nuclear reactor fuel, or in a more extended form, the fissile content of warhead warhead. It is one of the most dangerous nuclear weapons in Iran.
Rouhani also emphasized at the event, which coincides with Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, that Tehran’s nuclear program is for “peaceful” purposes only.