Iran threatens more uranium enrichment as it pulls out of parts of nuclear deal

‘This surgery is to save the [deal], not destroy it,’ president Hassan Rouhani says

Adam Withnall,Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 08 May 2019 07:53 BST
Hassan Rouhani: Iran stopping parts of nuclear deal

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Iran has said it is pulling out of “some commitments” made under its international nuclear deal and will resume higher enrichment of uranium in 60 days unless a new agreement can be reached.

President Hassan Rouhani said he had informed the world powers still backing the deal, as well as Russia. His announcement came in a live speech on the anniversary of Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the accord. Crippling sanctions have since been reintroduced against Iran.

Mr Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal but acknowledged the situation was dire. “This surgery is to save the [deal], not destroy it,” he said.

The original deal, signed in 2015, lifted many international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme. The agreement was signed by the UK, China, the European Union, France and Germany, as well as Iran and the US.

“If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal,” Mr Rouhani said.

He warned of a firm response if Iran’s nuclear case is referred again to the United Nations Security Council, but said Tehran was ready for negotiations about its nuclear programme.

He also said his country will no longer sell enriched uranium and heavy water to other nations.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also tweeted: “After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue.”

Mr Zarif said Iran’s actions did not violate the original terms of the nuclear agreement and reiterated there was now a 60-day period for diplomacy.

He set out the technical and legal details in a letter to the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and later met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in London, said America "will wait and observe" what Iran does next.

"They have made have made a number of statements about actions they have threatened to do in order to get the world to jump," Pompeo said.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu staunchly criticised the decision: “We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

“We will continue to fight those who seek to take our lives, and we will thrust our roots even deeper into the soil of our homeland.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation

In his 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump called the Iran nuclear deal “disastrous” and said “renegotiating” it would be one of his first tasks as president.

Mr Trump pulled out of the deal in May 2018, despite independent assessments saying it was being fully and effectively implemented.

After the US pull-out, the other signatories signed agreements to continue to trade with Iran, and said the nuclear deal remained “a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy” and “a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture”.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called Iran's threat to resume higher enrichment of uranium an "unwelcome step", but said “as long as Iran keeps its commitments, then so will the United Kingdom.”

French Defense Secretary Florence Parly was much more dire. "Nothing would be worse than Iran leaving this deal," he told BMFTV.

Russia blamed the US for provoking Iran into rolling back some of the terms of the deal.

“President Putin has repeatedly spoken of the consequences of unthought-out steps regarding Iran and by that I mean the decision taken by Washington [to quit the deal]. Now we are seeing those consequences are starting to happen,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

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Tim Morrison, a special assistant to Trump and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefence, told a conference that Washington was not “done” with imposing sanctions on Iran.

“Expect more sanctions soon. Very soon.”

On Sunday, the White House said it would dispatch an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to the Persian Gulf in response to what it described as a new threat from Iran.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Iraq after cancelling plans to visit Berlin to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel and other officials.

Mr Pompeo instead travelled to Baghdad to meet Iraq’s prime minister and other top officials to discuss escalating tensions with Iran.

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