Iran plans to start using a new array of advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium, the country’s nuclear chief said Monday according to state television, in a move likely to intensify pressure on Europe to save Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.
Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian state TV that an array of 30 IR-6 centrifuges will be inaugurated in the coming weeks.
Under the terms of its 2015 deal — which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from over a year ago — Iran had committed to not using the array until late 2023.
Iran has steadily increased its breaches of the nuclear accord as it pushes its European partners to find a way around U.S. sanctions that have kept it from selling oil abroad and crippled the Iranian economy.
Salehi also said Iran is now producing up to six kilograms of enriched uranium daily.
“It means we have restored pre-deal” capacity, he said.
In September, Iran inaugurated an array of 20 IR-6 centrifuges that can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as the IR-1 that Iran was already using.
Iran is currently enriching uranium to about 4.5%. Prior to the nuclear deal, it only reached up to 20%, which is a short technical step away from the weapons-grade levels of 90%.
Meanwhile on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Baghdad with Iraqi President Barham Salih and other Iraqi officials.
Lavrov told reporters after meeting his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Ali al-Hakim that the aim of Moscow and Baghdad is to “reduce escalation and we have a unified stance on putting forward initiatives regarding the Gulf region.”
Al-Hakim says he and Lavrov talked about reducing tension and protecting shipping in the Gulf.
Regionals tensions spiked last month after a drone and missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facility that shook global energy markets. The U.S. said Iran was behind the attack. Tehran denied the charge and said any retaliatory strikes by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia could lead to “all-out war.”