State Dept.: U.S. 'will respond accordingly' if Iran continues to expand its nuclear program

A general view of the Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr, southern Iran. On Thursday, the Biden administration warned Iran that it will respond if it goes ahead with plans to expanding its nuclear program. File Photo by Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE

June 13 (UPI) -- The United States "will respond accordingly" if Iran goes through with plans to expand its nuclear program, the State Department warned Thursday after the U.N. nuclear watchdog said the Middle Eastern country was increasing its uranium enrichment capacity.

"The report issued today by the IAEA makes clear that Iran aims to continue expanding its nuclear program in ways that have no credible peaceful purpose. These planned actions further undermine Iran's claims to the contrary," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

"If Iran implements these plans, we will respond accordingly."

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency was sent to member states Thursday, a week after it passed a resolution calling on Iran to increase cooperation with the U.N. agency while censoring it for barring inspectors from some of its nuclear sites.

"Iran must cooperate with the IAEA without further delay to fully implement its legally binding safeguards obligations. Until Iran does so, the IAEA Board of Governors will continue to hold Iran to account," Miller said.

Iran has been publicly advancing its nuclear program since 2018 when then-American President Donald Trump slapped sanctions on Tehran and wholly pulled the United States from an Obama-era, multi-nation accord aimed at preventing the Middle Eastern country from acquiring a nuclear weapon, arguing it did not go far enough.

The IAEA said Iran is now enriching uranium up to 60% purity while increasing its stockpile. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to 90%.

Following the IAEA's censure of Iran, the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank had warned that such a move "is a risky leap of faith" as Iran has retaliated against previous moves from the U.N. watchdog.

"How Tehran responds to the new IAEA censure is guesswork, but a response of some sort is almost certain," the think tank's Simon Henderson wrote on Monday.