Iran said Sunday it has raised its enrichment of uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, breaking another limit of its dying 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and further sparking tensions between Tehran and the U.S.
Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran still wanted to salvage the deal negotiated by former U.S. President Barack Obama but blamed European countries for failing to live up to their own commitments to keep it alive.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference Iran will go beyond the limit of 3.67 percent enrichment Sunday and the new percentage “will be based on our needs,” without specifying any further details, local IRNA newsagency reports.
Iran made the decision a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal. Iran has repeatedly warned Europe in recent weeks it would begin walking away from the accord unless alternative plans were made from within the E.U. to secure ongoing alternative trade arrangements with the isolated Islamic republic.
Sunday’s decision came less than a week after Iran acknowledged breaking the deal’s 300-kilogram (661-pound) limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile. Experts warn higher enrichment and a growing stockpile narrow the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material for an atomic bomb, something Iran denies it wants but the deal prevented.
Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz has already criticised the move, saying that while the increase was “moderate”, Iran had “begun its march… toward nuclear weaponry”.
The announcement comes a day after French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and expressed his “strong concern” about what would happen if the agreement was abandoned.