Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has called on Iran to "show restraint" after UN inspectors confirmed the country has started producing small amounts of uranium metal in the latest breach of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
"We understand the logic of their actions and the reasons prompting Iran. Despite this, it is necessary to show restraint and a responsible approach," Ryabkov said on February 11, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi informed member states on February 10 that the UN atomic watchdog's inspectors had confirmed this week that 3.6 grams of uranium metal had been produced at a nuclear facility in Isfahan.
The new violation comes as Tehran seeks to ramp up pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration.
Although the amount of Iranian uranium metal is small and not enriched, it could be used to form the core of a nuclear weapon.
The nuclear agreement -- reached by Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain -- put a 15-year ban on Iran "producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys."
Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact in 2018 and reimposed crushing sanctions on Tehran.
In response, Tehran has gradually breached the deal by building up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, refining uranium to a higher level of purity, and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.
Iran announced in January that it intended to research uranium metal production, saying the advanced fuel was needed for a research reactor in Tehran. The measure was part of a law passed by parliament in December following the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, which Tehran blames on Israel.
When Iran announced its plans to produce uranium metal, Germany, France, and Britain stated that they were "deeply concerned."
"Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal," they said in a joint statement. "The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications."
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes and it has no intention of building a weapon.
Iran's latest breach complicates a standoff between Washington and Tehran over the future of the nuclear accord.
The Biden administration is seeking to revive diplomacy but is demanding Iran first return to compliance with the accord, which required Tehran to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iranian officials insist that the United States should first return to the deal by lifting sanctions.
"We continue to urge Tehran to resume full compliance" with the 2015 nuclear deal "because that, for us, would open up the pathway for diplomacy," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press briefing on February 10.