President Hassan Rouhani announced on Saturday that Iran has begun mechanical tests on its newest advanced nuclear centrifuge.
The latest line of new IR-9 centrifuges could separate uranium isotopes more quickly than the current centrifuges being used, enabling Iran to enrich uranium at a faster pace.
During the launch ceremony, Rouhani spoke of the "great achievement" of the scientists of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), state television reported.
"We are conforming to the nuclear weapons nonproliferation treaty and don't pursue military goals," Rouhani said on Iran's annual Nuclear Day.
"That's why a peaceful nuclear program is our legitimate right, which we will pursue without foreign help," he added.
According to the AEOI, the new centrifuges will be able to increase enrichment to 60%. The IR-9's output is 50 times faster than the first Iranian centrifuge, the IR-1.
Tehran fails to honor 2015 commitment
Rouhani's comments come as Germany, France, the UK, China and Russia attempt to bring the US back into the floundering 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly as the Iran nuclear deal.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to use only older centrifuges of the type IR-1 and keep uranium enrichment below the grade of 4%. But after Donald Trump took the US out of the accord in 2018, Iran also halted efforts to honor the deal.
According to the AEOI, Iran has enriched 57 kilograms (125.4 pounds) of uranium at 20% within four months — prompting international fears that the country could reach weapons-grade levels. Iran's government has maintained that it has no intent to develop nuclear weapons.
During Saturday's ceremony, Rouhani criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"The task of the IAEA is not only to lead inspections and file reports, but also to support the members in technical matters," he said, adding that the agency had failed to provide technical support.
The Vienna-based IAEA had reported several violations of the nuclear deal by Iran in recent months.
mvb/dj (dpa, AP)