Iran's nuclear chief said Saturday that the Islamic republic is currently building a new generation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment, but that they need further tests before they can be mass produced.
If true, the move counters the landmark nuclear deal reached in November between the West and Iran, in which Iran promised not to bring new centrifuges into operation for six months -- part of temporary limitations on its uranium enrichment program in return for the easing of some sanctions.
But the deal does not stop it from developing centrifuges.
Ali Akbar Salehi's comments are believed to be aimed at showing the country is moving ahead with its nuclear program, and came in an effort to fend off criticism by Iranian hard-liners, who have denounced the deal, calling it a capitulation to Western pressure.
Salehi did not elaborate on how long the building and testing would take.
"The new generation of centrifuges is under development. But all tests should be carried on it before mass production," Salehi was quoted by Iranian media as saying.
He also said Iran has a total of 19,000 centrifuges, though he did not say how many were operational. In August, Iran said it had 18,000 centrifuges including some 1,000 advanced ones. Iran previously gave the International Atomic Energy Agency information on the new generation of centrifuges included in its nuclear program.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's government asserted over the weekend that the deal recognizes Iran's right to enrich uranium.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge, saying its program is only for peaceful purposes, including power generation and developing medical treatments.
Under the Geneva deal, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to 5 percent and neutralize its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium.
Commenting on the Iranian threat ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran, on top of arming many terror groups worldwide, was "now developing centrifuges that can enrich uranium up to six-times faster than the regular centrifuges it has. This is done now, before a [permanent] deal has even been drafted."
"I can already see how the Iranian economy is starting to recover. We are following these things, we will bring them to the world's attention and we continue to view the prevention of a nuclear Iran as our primary goal in terms of the national security of the State of Israel and also the security of the region and the world," Netanyahu said.
Over the weekend, conservative news analyst Charles Krauthammer told Fox News that President Barack Obama was "simply not serious" about the Iranian threat: "The only thing that is surprising is the fact that the Iranian announcement about their new centrifuges indicates they are clearly so confident in Obama's weakness that they actually poke him in the eye. The Geneva agreement is a farce, and nothing in it prevents Iran from enriching uranium."
Also on Saturday, an Iranian official denied reports in the London-based Al-Hayat daily suggesting that the West offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran agreeing to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.
"The Syrian people will decide their fate," Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdullahian was quoted as saying by Iran's Press TV network.
"Based on our information, even in talks between Russia and the U.S. over the continuation of Assad's presidency, Moscow said the continuation of Assad's presidency depends on the decision and will of the Syrian people."