An Iranian nuclear energy official on Sunday repeated a warning from earlier this year that his country is able to create highly enriched uranium in “two to three days.”
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting that officials should be prepared for a possible resumption of nuclear activities, which were suspended under the nuclear deal that Tehran signed with China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany, and US the European Union in 2015.
The Trump administration withdrew from the deal on May 8 and ordered that harsher sanctions be reinstated. It is demanding that Iran stop the enrichment of uranium and end its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan in order to negotiate a new deal.
On Friday, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany met — at Iran’s request — to discuss how to move forward.
Speaking after that meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said: “We are negotiating… to see if they can provide us with a package which can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.”
He added that “practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investments in the country.
“The next step is to find guarantees for that package,” he said.
Iranian officials have said they expect such a package to be presented by the end of May.
Araghchi said that talks would continue over the next few weeks “particularly at an expert level,” after which Iran would decide whether to stay in the accord.
“We got the sense that Europeans, Russia and China… are serious and they recognize that JCPOA’s survival depends on the interests of Iran being respected,” Araghchi added, using the official name for the 2015 deal.
In March, Kamalvandi told the Iranian Arabic-language al-Alam TV network, “If we want to enrich uranium to the 20-percent level, we can do it in less than 48 hours.”
Uranium enriched above the level of 20 percent is considered highly enriched and could theoretically be used in an atomic weapon, though most nuclear bombs contain uranium enriched to higher than 80%.
In his March interview, Kamalvandi said that Iran has developed highly advanced centrifuges that are 24 times more powerful than the previous models used.
He said that those machines could be brought back into full service if the 2015 nuclear deal were to collapse.
Agencies contributed to this report.