The Iranian nuclear standoff has come a step closer to becoming an international crisis, with the possibility of United Nations sanctions looming.
Tehran has delivered a letter to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, announcing the resumption of uranium enrichment activities.
It follows the failure of the Islamic republic and the European Union to break the diplomatic deadlock.
However the speaker of the Iranian parliament has insisted the move does not mean closing the door on the Europeans.
“We are willing to continue negotiations,” said Haddad Adel. “Resuming some activities does not signify an end to talks.”
The IAEA and the EU have both strongly urged Tehran not to restart uraniumreprocessing.
European Commission spokesman Stefaan de Rynck said: “The Commission very much hopes for a negotiated solution. We would also hope that no steps would be taken over the coming days to endanger such a negotiated solution.”
But work may have already begun at the uranium reprocessing plant in the central city of Isfahan. It is thought Iran’s action could be intended to pressure Brussels to expand the package of economic incentives it proposed in return for an end to nuclear activity.
But that might be a miscalculation by Tehran as EU countries leading the talks are now debating whether to deliver the package.
Iran’s move also seems certain to increase pressure from its arch-foe the United States.