Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday sought to allay Western concerns over his country's decision to enrich uranium to 60 percent purity, saying Tehran's nuclear program is "peaceful.”
Rouhani said in televised remarks that it was a "mistake" for Europe and the United States to express concerns that the move "means we can enrich to 90 percent in one go.”
"Today, we can enrich to 90 percent if we want to. But we have declared it from day one and we're keeping our word: our nuclear activities are peaceful; we are not seeking to obtain the atomic bomb."
The UN nuclear watchdog said it had been informed by Iran that it would produce uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 60% uranium at the pilot fuel enrichment plant at Natanz, an above-ground facility more vulnerable to further attack.
"The Agency today verified that Iran had almost completed preparations to start producing UF6 enriched up to 60% U-235 at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP)," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement.
France, Germany and the UK expressed "grave concern" at the move, saying that Iran took a dangerous step towards the production of a nuclear weapon by enriching uranium to levels for which there is no “credible civilian need."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Wednesday that Iran’s new move was “provocative.”
“We take very seriously its provocative announcement of an intent to begin enriching uranium at 60 percent,” Blinken said at a news conference outside of NATO’s Brussels headquarters.
“I have to tell you the step calls into question Iran’s seriousness with regard to the nuclear talks, just as it underscores the imperative of returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA (nuclear deal with Iran),” he added.
Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi warned in a television interview in February that although “Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes," but it might be drawn into a military nuclear program.