Iran draws warnings on enrichment – US warned of limited strike after drone downing
DUBAI, July 7, (Agencies): Iran announced on Sunday it will shortly boost its uranium enrichment above a cap set by a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, a major breach likely to draw a tougher reaction from US President Donald Trump, who has pressured Tehran to renegotiate the pact.
In a live news conference, senior Iranian officials threatened further violations, saying Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days, unless European signatories protect it from US sanctions imposed by Trump. “We are fully prepared to enrich uranium at any level and with any amount,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation.
“In a few hours the technical process will come to an end and the enrichment beyond 3.67 percent will begin,” he added, referring to the limit set in the 2015 agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the step was extremely dangerous and was designed to create atomic bombs, and again called on Europe to impose punitive sanctions on Tehran. Iran has denied any intent to develop nuclear weapons.
Tehran shows no sign of caving in to the United States in a confrontation that has taken on a military dimension, with Washington blaming Tehran for attacks on oil tankers, and Iran shooting down a US drone, prompting aborted US air strikes.
The Europeans, who object to Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, have so far failed to salvage the pact by shielding Iran’s economy from US sanctions, which cost billions of dollars in lost oil sales. French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Iran’s decision as a “violation” of the pact which the United States pulled out of last year. Iran must immediately stop and reverse its activities, a spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office said on Sunday.
A German foreign ministry spokesman gave a similar response. Iran did leave some room for negotiations. All measures taken to scale back its commitments to the agreement were “reversible” if the European signatories of the pact fulfilled their obligations, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Sunday. The Iran nuclear deal dispute resolution mechanism will not be triggered for now, said a source at Macron’s Elysee office.
The French government is giving itself until July 15 to try to get all parties talking again. Under that so-called snapback mechanism, if a series of steps designed to resolve differences fails, sanctions in all previous UN resolutions would be re-imposed. Daniel Byman, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, said Iran was engaged in a tricky balancing act. “The step is meant to show domestic audiences that Iran is standing up to US pressure. It is also meant to convey a sense of risk to European audiences that Iran may provoke a crisis,” he said.
Under the pact, Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67 percent fissile material, well below the 20 percent it was reaching before the deal and the roughly 90 percent suitable for a nuclear weapon. Kamalvandi said Iran would enrich uranium for use in fuelling its Bushehr power plant, to the level of 5 percent, confirming what Reuters reported on Saturday. Inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog who are in Iran will report back once they have checked that Tehran has enriched uranium to a higher level of purity than that allowed under its nuclear deal, the agency said.
Tehran says its missile programme is defensive. Under a dispute process, Iran could argue the US withdrawal and Washington’s sanctions campaign constitute “significant nonperformance” and “treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments”. “European countries have failed to uphold their commitments and they are also responsible,” Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, told the news conference in Tehran.
“The doors of diplomacy are open but what matters are new initiatives which are required.” Under the nuclear deal, most international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in return for limitations on its nuclear work. Iran criticized the US’ request to hold an urgent session for the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to discuss Iran’s decreasing commitment to the nuclear deal. The remarks came in a statement published by Iran’s permanent delegation to the international organizations in Vienna and received by KUNA on Sunday. “It is indeed a sad irony that the same regime which materially violated the JCPOA by withdrawing illegally and unilaterally from the deal, and has been pushing others to follow suit, thereby hampering its implementation by the International Community through exerting every means of coercion, is expressing concern over the mere implementation of the same deal,” it said.
The United States conveyed a message to Iran warning of a limited strike against the country after its unmanned drone was shot down in the Gulf, Iran’s civil defence agency chief was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency on Sunday. “After the downing of its intruding drone, the United States told us through diplomatic intermediaries that it wanted to carry out a limited operation,” said Gholamreza Jalali, who is also a senior commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. “But Iran’s response was that we regard every operation as the beginning of a war.”