TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will start enriching uranium by 5 percent at the Verdou nuclear facility on Wednesday, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency said, while the United States condemned the move and warned it could lead to a nuclear bomb.
Salehi added that the process of pumping gas to the centrifuges at the Verdou facility will be carried out in the presence of IAEA observers.
He said his country would enrich the stable isotopes at the Firdo facility as well as uranium enrichment.
Salehi also stressed that his country's stockpile of enriched uranium by 20% is sufficient, and that Iran is capable of enriching at a high rate in the event of running out of stockpiles according to the nuclear agreement.
On Tuesday, Tehran sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) informing it of the decision to pump gas into centrifuges at the Verdou nuclear facility starting today, in the fourth step of reducing Iran's commitments on the nuclear deal.
Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country will begin today the fourth step in reducing its obligations under the nuclear deal under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Local media quoted Rouhani as saying today that "the fourth step that we will start tomorrow will be at the site of Verdou, we have according to the nuclear agreement 1044 centrifuges in the Verdou reactor, and was supposed to spin without pumping gas in them, today I will ask the Atomic Energy Organization to Start pumping gas into these devices. "
He pointed out that this step is subject to return if the European parties fulfill their obligations under the nuclear agreement.
Rouhani stressed at the same time that "the Islamic Republic will raise the level of enrichment as much as it needs."
He added that "Washington wants to surrender to sanctions, but now everyone says that US sanctions are wrong policy," stressing that the path of dialogue is still open on the basis of mutual respect and stop all sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran's reduction of its obligations under the terms of the nuclear deal was a response to what he called Washington's economic terrorism.
For its part, the State Department said in a statement that Iran's continued expansion of uranium enrichment operations is not surprising.
It said Iran had repeatedly threatened to do so in the context of its explicit attempts at what it called nuclear blackmail.
The State Department stressed that Iran's persistence in uranium enrichment activities is a big step in the wrong direction, and that it will only increase its political and economic isolation.
It considered that the recent measures implemented by Iran could ultimately help it to acquire a nuclear weapon if it so decides.
The United States last year withdrew unilaterally from the nuclear deal, which was aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal in return for economic benefits.
It is now putting extreme pressure on Iran to force it to negotiate a broader deal beyond its nuclear program, but Tehran insists it will not enter into any negotiations unless Washington shows "good faith."
For its part, the French Foreign Ministry said that Tehran's announcement to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal violated its terms.
She noted that Paris remained committed to the nuclear deal, and called on Iran to reverse its decisions.