Iran attempted to purchase special magnets used for uranium enrichment, components which experts believe would enable the regime in Tehran to upgrade its centrifuges and greatly expand its nuclear program, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Iran has been under heavy sanctions from the international community for the past few years due to its drive to acquire nuclear weapons.

Recently, the Islamic Republic sought to purchase 100,000 units of the highly specialized ring-shaped magnets, which are banned from export to the country under a number of UN resolutions, the report said.

The attempt to acquire the banned items from China “could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability,” experts told the paper.

They noted that even with Iran constantly trying to circumvent the sanctions against it, such a large order was “unusual,” since it would allow Tehran to outfit some 50,000 new centrifuges, a vast increase to the country’s current array, which is estimated to total around 10,000 centrifuges.

On Wednesday, Iran announced that it would install and run a new generation of centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel at its Natanz facility. An unnamed analyst told The Washington Post the two developments might be linked.

“They are positioning themselves to make a lot of nuclear progress quickly,” an anonymous diplomat said, warning that such progress was “potentially more dangerous.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Tehran was continuing, unabated, its drive toward a nuclear bomb.

Speaking to a group of American Jewish leaders, Netanyahu said Iran was nearing an irreversible “red line” and that, if not stopped, the country would soon be able to arm a nuclear warhead. Netanyahu warned that the time line needed to reach that capability was getting shorter.

Senior UN investigators were in Iran Wednesday for a new round of talks with government officials over allegations that Tehran may have carried out tests on triggers for atomic weapons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.