By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN, Iran (AA) – Iran informed the international nuclear watchdog Tuesday of its plan to ramp up uranium enrichment following an attack over the weekend at its Natanz nuclear facility.
Confirming the development, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Tehran had communicated its intention to start producing uranium hexafluoride (UF6) enriched up to 60% at a pilot fuel enrichment plant at Natanz.
The development comes two days after Natanz, the country's top nuclear site, which is located in Isfahan province, came under a cyberattack which Tehran blamed on Israel.
Earlier Tuesday, the spokesman for Iran's nuclear agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, announced the agency's plan to start enriching uranium up to 60% purity in a first move following Sunday's incident.
He said the IAEA has been informed of Iran’s decision.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who is presently representing Iran in nuclear talks in Vienna, also confirmed the news and said a letter has been dispatched to the head of the IAEA in this regard.
The US expressed "concern" over Iran's latest decision, terming it "provocative," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Tensions continue to simmer between Tehran and Washington despite ongoing efforts to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The incident at Natanz, which is currently being investigated by Iran, risks further escalating tensions between the two sides, which is evident from the strongly worded statements from Iranian officials.
Iran had been enriching uranium up to 20% since the beginning of this year, even though under the nuclear deal, it had agreed to enrich only up to 3.67%.