The United States expressed “deep concern” Tuesday over progress Iran is making on its nuclear program and ballistic missile capability, after Tehran said it has begun enriching uranium to 60 percent at a second facility.
“We are continuing to watch, not only their nuclear progress with deep concern, but also their continually improving ballistic missile capability,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told a briefing in Washington.
Reiterating a commitment made by US President Joe Biden that Iran would never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, Kirby said “all options” were being made available to the American president.
“We certainly have not changed our view that we will not allow Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.”
“We’re not close to getting a diplomatic path here. We still would vastly prefer that. But we are just too far apart,” Kirby said, in reference to efforts to revive the nuclear deal with Tehran.
Iran in the meantime publicized that it had moved ahead on uranium enrichment that Western governments worry is part of a covert nuclear weapons program.
“Iran has started producing uranium enriched to 60 percent at the Fordow plant for the first time,” Iran’s ISNA news agency reported, a development then confirmed by Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Mohammad Eslami.
An atomic bomb requires uranium enriched to 90 percent, so 60 percent is a significant step towards weapons-grade enrichment.
Previously on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he can’t confirm any reports about Iran’s activities.
In remarks during a visit to Doha to hold a strategic dialogue between the US and Qatar, Blinken said Iran has chosen to insert extraneous issues into the effort to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley, for his part, said on Monday that Iran’s crackdown on anti-government protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death in custody and the sale of drones to Russia have turned the US focus away from reviving the nuclear deal.