Iran marks US downing of passenger jet
TEHRAN, July 3, (Agencies): Iran will ratchet up its level of uranium enrichment after July 7 to whatever levels it needs beyond the 3.67 percent limit agreed upon in a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.
“We will abandon this commitment and will increase the enrichment level to the level required,” semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Rouhani as saying. He called on the US and European powers to return to the negotiating table, saying, “We will remain committed to the deal as long as the other parties live up to their commitments.”
Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile has passed the 300-kg limit set under its nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said two days earlier. Iran has given European powers 60 days to salvage its nuclear deal by shielding it from US sanctions in protest at the US decision to pull out of the accord and re-impose sanctions last year.
Uranium refined to a fissile purity of 3.67 percent is deemed suitable for electricity generation and is the maximum allowed by the deal. Enrichment to 90 percent yields bombgrade material. Rouhani added that the Islamic Republic’s actions were reversible. “All of our actions can be returned to the previous condition within one hour, why are you worried?” he said. His tone was unusually tough. Rouhani was the architect of the nuclear pact and is seen as a pragmatist, unlike senior clerics in Iran’s ruling elite who opposed his opening to the West and have kept up their denunciations of the United States.
Rouhani further urged the Trump administration to “adopt a rational approach again” and return to the negotiating table. Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy aims to push Iran into negotiate a wider-ranging deal also reining in its ballistic missile programme and its backing of proxies around the Middle East in a struggle with Saudi Arabia for regional dominance. Rouhani said that if the other signatories did not protect trade with Iran promised under the deal but blocked by Trump’s reimposition of tough sanctions, Tehran would also start to revive its Arak heavy-water reactor after July 7. As required by the accord, Iran said in January 2016 that it had removed the core of the reactor and filled it with cement. “From (July 7) onward with the Arak reactor, if you don’t operate (according to) the programme and time frame of all the commitments you’ve given us, we will return the Arak reactor to its previous condition,” said Rouhani.
“Meaning, the condition that you say is dangerous and can produce plutonium,” he said, referring to a key potential component of a nuclear bomb. “We will return to that unless you take action regarding all your commitments regarding Arak.” He kept the door open to negotiations, saying Iran would again reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium below the 300-kg limit set by the nuclear pact if signatories Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China honoured their deal pledges. Iran will gain nothing by departing from the terms of the deal, the French foreign ministry cautioned on Wednesday.
“Putting (the deal) into question will only increase the already heightened tensions in the region,” ministry spokesman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing. EU calls on ‘German, French and British foreign ministers as well as European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs Tuesday called on Iran to be committed to uranium enrichment limit agreed upon in the nuclear deal signed in 2015. In a joint statement, Germany’s Heiko Maas, and his French and British counterparts, Jean- Yves Le Drian and Jeremy Hunt respectively, as well as chief of EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed “extreme concern” at Iran’s announcement that it has exceeded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action stockpile limit for low enriched uranium.
They called on Iran to rescind all measures it took that will harm the deal in this matter. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed this information, they added in the statement. “We have been consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran. We regret this decision by Iran, which calls into question an essential instrument of nuclear non-proliferation,” they said. “We urge Iran to reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal. We are urgently considering next steps under the terms of the JCPoA (Iran nuclear deal) in close coordination with other JCPoA participants,” added the statement.
The statement came a day after the IAEA said on Tuesday that Iran had breached the uranium enrichment limit agreed upon in the nuclear deal. Relatives of those killed in the US Navy’s 1988 shootdown of an Iranian passenger jet have thrown fl owers into the Strait of Hormuz to mark their deaths. Iranian state television aired footage Wednesday of mourners in the strait, as armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast boats patrolled around them. They tossed gladiolas into the strait as some wept. The July 3, 1988 downing of Iran Air Flight 655 by the US Navy remains one of the moments the Iranian government points to in its decades-long distrust of America. The US Navy’s mistaken missile fire killed 290 people. This year’s commemoration comes amid heightened tensions with the US, after President Donald Trump pulled America from Iran’s nuclear deal. Iran this week broke a low-enriched uranium stockpile limitation set by the deal.