Agence France Presse – Iran has started putting uranium feedstock gas into centrifuges, the first step in manufacturing what can be either nuclear reactor fuel or material for an atom bomb, diplomats told AFP Monday.
"Iran has put gas into centrifuges at its pilot enrichment plant in Natanz," a diplomat in Vienna said.
The diplomat said that Iran had not yet fired up the whole 164-centrifuge cascade but had "over the past two or three days" started work with some centrifuges.
Enrichment is seen as a red line by the United States and the European Union since it is the key process to making nuclear weapons.
Putting uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into centrifuges, which distill out enriched uranium, would be a major escalation by Iran in its face-off with the West over a nuclear program which the United States charges hides secret atomic weapons development.
Iran said Monday that it would resume uranium enrichment even before the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency meets next month in Vienna to decide whether to recommend action by the UN Security Council, which has the authority to take punitive measures against Iran.
A second diplomat said that Iran was still doing "preliminary work" with centrifuges, almost certainly working on single machines rather than a whole cascade.
The diplomats’ comments show however that Iran is following through with its threat to move ahead on enrichment.