VIENNA — Iran is taking steps to improve its ability to speed up uranium enrichment that could delay implementation of a nuclear deal with six world powers because Tehran's moves are opposed by the United States and its allies.
Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said late Thursday that his country is building a new generation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment but they need further tests before they can be mass produced. His comments appeared aimed at countering criticism from Iranian hard-liners by showing their country's nuclear program is moving ahead and has not been halted by the accord.
But two officials familiar with Iran's nuclear activities told the Associated Press that Tehran has gone even further by interpreting a provision of the interim Geneva nuclear deal in a way rejected by many, if not all, of the six powers. The officials spoke to the Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the closed meetings.
The officials said Iranian technical experts told counterparts from the six powers last week that some of the cutting-edge machines have been installed at a research tract of one of Iran's enriching sites. They gave no numbers.
Iran argued that it had a right to do so under the research and development provisions of the Nov. 24 accord, said the officials, who represent countries that are members of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear agency monitoring Tehran's atomic activities.
Iran's approach is being disputed by the United States and other representatives of the six powers — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — the officials said.
The six powers agreed to an interim deal with Iran that freezes Tehran's nuclear program for six months as the two sides explore a more durable deal on controlling Iran's nuclear ambitions.