(Newser) – Iran announced Sunday it will increase its uranium enrichment to an unspecified level beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, reports the AP, breaking another limit set under the accord and furthering heightening tensions between Tehran and the US. Setting another unspecified 60-day deadline for the deal, Iran took further steps toward pressuring Europe while urging further diplomacy to save an agreement that President Trump unilaterally pulled the US from a year ago. Hopes for saving the faltering deal appear increasingly dim, however, as the Europeans have been unable to offer Iran any effective way around US sanctions that block Tehran’s oil sales abroad and target its top officials. But Iran’s recent measures, while of concern to nuclear non-proliferation experts, could be easily reversible if Europeans offer Iran the sanctions relief it seeks.
Iranian officials said the new level of uranium enrichment would be reached later Sunday, but did not give a percentage. Under the nuclear deal, the cap for enrichment was set at 3.67%. “Within hours, the technical tasks will be done and enrichment above 3.67% will begin,” Iran nuclear agency rep Behrouz Kamalvandi said. The IAEA said “inspectors in Iran will report to our headquarters as soon as they verify the announced development.” Kamalvandi also stressed that Iran will continue to use only slower, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to increase enrichment, as well as keep the number of centrifuges in use under the 5,060-limit set by the nuclear deal. But Kamalvandi stressed that Iran is able to continue enrichment “at any speed, any amount and any level.” “For the enrichment we are using the same machines with some more pressure and some special technical work,” he said. The decision to ramp up uranium enrichment came less than a week after Iran broke the deal’s 660-pound limit on uranium.