This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
President Hassan Rohani has announced that Iran will this week begin developing centrifuges to speed up uranium enrichment, as the country’s “third step” to scale back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
“From Friday, we will witness research and development on different kinds of centrifuges and new centrifuges and also whatever is needed for enriching uranium in an accelerated way,” Rohani said on September 4.
“All limitations on our research and development will be lifted on Friday [September 6],” he added.
U.S. President Donald Trump last year abandoned the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that gave Iran access to world trade, including the sale of oil, in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Washington has since reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy, while Tehran began exceeding some of the limits placed as part of the accord on nuclear material and also threatened to further breach them on September 5 if the Western European signatories of the deal — France, Germany, and Britain — do not offer economic relief.
Speaking in a televised speech, Rohani said that Iran will give Europe two more months to fully implement the terms of the pact. If that happens, Tehran will also reverse course and return to implementing the accord, he said.
Earlier in the day, the Iranian president warned that Iran’s next step to reduce its commitments would be “the most important one” and “will have extraordinary effects.”
His announcement comes amid a flurry of recent talks among Iran, France, and Russia to preserve the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement signed in 2015.
Reports suggest that France is prepared to offer Iran $15 billion in credit lines until the end of the year — guaranteed by oil — in return for Tehran adhering again to the JCPOA’s terms.
But Brian Hook, the State Department coordinator on Iran, on September 4 ruled out providing any sanctions waivers to accommodate the French proposal.
Under its nuclear agreement with world powers, Iran is allowed to operate restricted quantities of first-generation centrifuges at its Fordow and Natanz nuclear plants.
More advanced centrifuges could enable Iran to produce material for a potential nuclear bomb faster.
Tehran says it is only enriching uranium to fuel nuclear power plants.