Iran nuclear talks in Vienna
Iran nuclear talks in ViennaReuters

The United States said on Tuesday it is “greatly concerned” by an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which said Iran has increased its production of highly enriched uranium.

"Iran's nuclear escalation is all the more concerning at a time when Iran-backed proxies continue their dangerous and destabilizing activities in the region, including the recent deadly drone attack and other attempted attacks in Iraq and Syria and the Houthi attacks against commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea," said a White House national security council spokesperson quoted by Reuters.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in Tuesday’s report that Iran “in recent weeks had increased its production of highly enriched uranium, reversing a previous output reduction from mid-2023.”

Iran had previously slowed down the rate at which it was enriching uranium to 60% purity. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

An IAEA report released in mid-November found that Iran has enough uranium enriched to up to 60% purity, close to weapons-grade, for three atom bombs.

A second report released at the same time found there has been no progress on the IAEA investigation into uranium traces found at several undeclared sites in Iran.

Iran a few months ago escalated the conflict with the IAEA by withdrawing accreditation from several top UN nuclear watchdog inspectors.

A standoff between Iran and the West, over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, continues.

Iran has scaled back its compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in response to former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018.

The Biden administration sought to return to the deal and held indirect talks with Iran on a return to compliance, but the negotiations reached a stalemate last September, after Iran submitted a response to a European Union proposal to revive the deal.

A US official later said that the efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have “hit a wall” because of Iran's insistence on the closure of the UN nuclear watchdog's investigations.