(Newser) – Iran quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity amid tensions with the US over Tehran’s atomic program, nuclear officials said Monday, just after President Trump and Iran’s foreign minister traded threats and taunts on Twitter. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon, the AP reports. But by increasing production, Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations set by the accord. Tehran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with new terms for the deal, or it will enrich closer to weapons-grade levels in a Middle East already on edge. The Trump administration has deployed bombers and an aircraft carrier to the region over still-unspecified threats from Iran.
Already this month, officials in the United Arab Emirates alleged that four oil tankers were damaged in a sabotage attack; Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia; and US diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran. A rocket landed Sunday near the US Embassy in the Green Zone of Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, days after nonessential US staff were ordered to evacuate from diplomatic posts in the country. The Iranian enrichment announcement came after local journalists traveled to Natanz in central Iran, the country’s underground enrichment facility. There, an unidentified nuclear scientist gave a statement with a surgical cap and a mask covering most of his face. The state-run IRNA news agency later quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as acknowledging that capacity had been quadrupled.