The United Kingdom, France and Germany - the 'E3' group of European powers - expressed concern on Wednesday over Iran's latest moves to enrich uranium up to 60% purity.
"The governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the E3) note with grave concern the announcement by Iran that it will start uranium enrichment up to 60% using advanced centrifuges as Iran communicated to the IAEA on 13 April," they said in a joint statement.
Iran's president on Wednesday called Tehran's decision "an answer to your evilness," linking the incident to ongoing talks in Vienna over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Speaking to his Cabinet, an impassioned President Hassan Rouhani said damaged first-generation IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz would be replaced by advanced IR-6 centrifuges that enrich uranium much faster.
Iran 's deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said on Tuesday that his country's decision came after Iran's uranium enrichment facility in Natanz was sabotaged in a reported explosion near its main electricity line early on Sunday, in an attack the Tehran regime says was carried out by Israel, although officials in Jerusalem declined to comment.
"This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon. Iran has no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level," the European governments added.
Saudi Arabia said also voiced its concern on Wednesday, about Iran's intention to start enriching uranium to 60% purity and said such a move could not be considered part of a peaceful nuclear program.
A foreign ministry statement called on Iran to avoid escalation and engage seriously in talks with global powers about a 2015 nuclear pact. The statement also urged the international community to reach an agreement "with stronger parameters of a longer duration".
Iran's announcement to raise uranium enrichment and bring the fissile material closer to the 90% level suitable for a nuclear bomb, came ahead of the resumption of nuclear talks in Vienna.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, who were also worried about Iran's ballistic missiles and regional network of proxies, had supported former U.S. President Donald Trump's move to quit the accord in 2018 and re-impose harsh sanctions on Iran.
Iran responded by breaching several nuclear restrictions.
The Saudi foreign ministry statement on state media said any deal should "also take into consideration the deep concern of regional states over escalatory steps by Iran to destabilize regional security and stability, including its nuclear program".
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been locked in several proxy wars in the region, including in Yemen where the Iran-aligned Houthi movement has launched cross-border missile and drone attacks at the kingdom.
First published: 16:57, 04.14.21