SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Britain, France and Germany said they had “grave concern” about Iran’s decision to give notice it would take concrete steps to produce uranium metal enriched to up to 20% purity for reactor fuel.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had begun the process of producing enriched uranium metal, a move that could help it develop a nuclear weapon.
“Iran has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon,” the three countries said in a joint statement issued by Britain’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
“We strongly urge Iran to halt all activities in violation of the JCPOA, without delay and to return to the negotiations in Vienna with a view to bringing them to a swift conclusion,” the three countries added.
Iran’s steps, which Tehran said aimed to develop fuel for a research reactor, also drew criticism from the United States, which called them an “unfortunate step backwards.”
U.S. and European officials made clear that Iran’s decision would complicate, and potentially torpedo, indirect U.S.-Iranian talks seeking to bring both nations back into compliance with the 2015 deal, which was abandoned by former President Donald Trump.
Tehran has already produced a small amount of uranium metal this year that was not enriched. That is a breach of the deal, which bans all work on uranium metal since it can be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington was not setting a deadline for the talks, but noted “that as time proceeds Iran’s nuclear advances will have a bearing on our view of returning to the JCPOA.”
Price said the United States found it “worrying” that Iran was continuing to violate the agreement “especially with experiments that have value for nuclear weapons research.
“It’s another unfortunate step backwards for Iran,” he said.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to the IAEA, noted the agency’s report on Iran’s latest violation of the 2015 deal as well as the Biden administration’s decision to maintain the Iran sanctions reimposed by Trump, also violations of the accord.
“The only way out of this vicious circle is resumption of #ViennaTalks without delay and full restoration of #JCPOA,” he wrote on Twitter.