Iran says it ‘will not wage war’ after US prepares to send 1,000 more troops to Middle East

But Tehran says it will increase uranium enrichment in response to American pressure 

Richard Hall
Middle East correspondent
Tuesday 18 June 2019 13:43
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'The countdown has started' Iran threatens to break uranium limit in 10 days

Iran’s president said his country “will not wage war against any nation” in a televised speech on Tuesday, a day after the US announced it would send 1,000 more troops to the Middle East.

Amid rising tensions between Tehran and the Trump administration, President Hassan Rouhani said US attempts to isolate Iran had failed.

“Those facing us are a group of politicians with little experience,” he said. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

The Pentagon said it had sent the troops to counter what it called a growing threat from Iran.

Acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan cited an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week – which the US blamed on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – for the increase.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behaviour by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement. He added that the US “does not seek conflict with Iran”.

Iran has denied involvement in the attack, and yet the incident has reignited long-standing tensions between the two countries over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

In May last year, President Donald Trump withdrew from 2015’s landmark deal that saw Iran curb its nuclear ambitions in return for lifted sanctions, calling the agreement “defective to its core”.

The deal was signed on behalf of the US by his predecessor Barack Obama, along with Russia, Britain, Germany, China and the European Union – all of whom insisted it was successful. The terms of the agreement limited the amount of low-enriched uranium stockpiled by Iran, which is a necessary component of a nuclear weapons programme.

The US has imposed several rounds of punishing sanctions on Iran over the past year, aimed at pressuring its leadership to accept terms more favourable to the US.

But on Monday, Iran’s nuclear agency announced that it would increase enrichment of uranium to surpass the caps agreed upon in 2015.

“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300kg limit,” said Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvand.

“Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate,” he told state TV, adding: ”The move will be reversed once other parties fulfil their commitments.”

The US responded by calling for Iran to honour the agreement which Trump had withdrawn from.

“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

Additional reporting by agencies 

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