Wed, 24 Jul 2019

The United States says Iran's plan to breach the limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium amounts to 'nuclear blackmail' and must be met with 'increased international pressure.'

White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis made the comments on June 17, after Iran followed through on its threats to further scale back its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Iran to be 'patient and responsible.'

The European Union said it will wait for the next report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's compliance with the international accord before announcing its response.

Earlier on June 17, a spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said that the country will exceed the limit for its uranium stockpiles set out in the agreement within the next 10 days and that Tehran will increase enrichment levels of its uranium holdings 'based on the country's needs.'

A spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said on state television on June 17 that the country will exceed the limit for its uranium stockpiles set out in the agreement within the next 10 days and that Tehran will increase enrichment levels of its uranium holdings 'based on the country's needs.'

However, he added there was 'still time' for European countries to act by protecting Iran from reinstated U.S. sanctions.

Speaking later at a meeting with France's new ambassador to Tehran, President Hassan Rohani called for urgency in rescuing the deal, which has been on the brink of collapse since the United States backed out of it last year.

'The current situation is very critical and France and the other parties to the [deal] still have a very limited opportunity to play their historic role for saving the deal,' Rohani said, according to a statement on his website.

'There's no doubt that the collapse of the [accord] will not be beneficial for Iran, France, the region, and the world,' he added.

In May, Iran stopped complying with some commitments in response to President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with six world powers, saying the terms were not tough enough and that the country had not lived up to the spirit of the pact by supporting extremist violence in the region -- something Iran has denied.

Trump has also reimposed sanctions against Tehran that had been eased under the nuclear deal, and has especially targeted Iran's banking and all-important energy sector.

Tehran has complained that European powers have failed to abide by their commitments to mitigate the effects of the U.S. sanctions on its economy.

The Western European signatories to the nuclear pact -- France, Britain, and Germany -- have warned Iran not to violate the deal.

Rohani told a summit of Asian leaders meeting in Dushanbe on June 15 that Tehran would continue to adhere to some commitments under the deal.

However, he said, scaling back on additional obligations would occur because of what he called 'confrontation' by the United States, Trump's 'withdrawal from this deal,' and the imposition of what he called 'illegal, unfounded sanctions supported by other parties.'

Iranian atomic agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi gave some of the details on June 17 of what Rohani meant.

He said Tehran had quadrupled the rate of enrichment 'and even increased it more recently,' meaning that in 10 days it will bypass the limit set out in the accord, which aimed at heading off any pathway to developing a nuclear bomb, in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

The accord limits Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 percent, or its equivalent, for 15 years.

'Iran's reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate. And if it is important for them [Europe] to safeguard the accord, they should make their best efforts.... As soon as they carry out their commitments, things will naturally go back to their original state,' he added.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government had been 'clear about our concern at Iranian plans to reduce compliance' with the nuclear agreement.

'Should Iran cease meeting its nuclear commitments, we would then look at all options available to us,' the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was a staunch opponent of the nuclear pact, called for international sanctions to be reimposed immediately 'should Iran deliver on its current threats.'

'In any event, Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weaponry,' Netanyahu warned.

Tensions between the two countries have risen in recent weeks after the United States accused Iran of involvement attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

In a show of strength, Washington has sent additional forces to the region. Iran has denied being behind the attacks.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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