Iran has no credible reason to expand its uranium enrichment programme, the United States has has said as it fully supported the IAEA in conducting its independent verification role in Iran.
"Unfortunately, Iran's continued expansion of uranium enrichment activities comes as no surprise. This is something that they threaten regularly in a transparent attempt at nuclear extortion," a State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The State Department statement came after Iran announced that it will begin enriching uranium using centrifuges at its Fordow facility.
"We fully support the IAEA in conducting its independent verification role in Iran and look to the IAEA to report on any developments," the spokesperson said.
"We have made clear that Iran's expansion of uranium enrichment activities in defiance of key nuclear commitments is a big step in the wrong direction, and underscores the continuing challenge Iran poses to international peace and security," the US said.
Iran had originally constructed the Fordow facility as a fortified, underground bunker to conduct secret uranium enrichment work. Resuming uranium enrichment at this previously clandestine site is only the latest Iranian attempt to extort the the international community, the spokesperson alleged.
"Iran has no credible reason to expand its uranium enrichment programme at the Fordow facility or elsewhere, other than a clear attempt at nuclear extortion that will only deepen its political and economic isolation," he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that the right amount of uranium enrichment for the world's top sponsor of terrorism is zero. "We will continue to impose maximum pressure on the regime until it abandons its destabilising behaviour, including proliferation-sensitive work," the spokesperson added.
"Iran's assertions that all these escalatory steps are reversible are false: the knowledge Iran could gain over time from R&D work on new centrifuge designs represents irreversible learning that could ultimately shorten Iran's breakout time to a nuclear weapon if it decided to pursue one," the official said.
"The international community must remain united on this issue and hold the Iranian regime accountable for its threats to expand its nuclear programme. The JCPOA was a flawed deal because it did not permanently address our concerns with respect to Iran's nuclear programme and destabilising conduct," he said.