Zarif: European plan to bypass US sanctions falls short
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that Iran has exceeded a limit on its enriched uranium reserves set by a 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
"Iran has crossed the 300-kilogram limit based on its plan," Zarif said.
"We have clearly said what we will do and we will act accordingly. We deem it as part of our rights under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," he added, referring to the official name of the nuclear deal.
“If Europeans do what they have to do, our measures are reversible,” Zarif said.
The International Atomic Energy agency (IAEA) said that its inspectors were verifying whether Iran had accumulated more enriched uranium than allowed.
Last Wednesday, the IAEA verified that Iran had roughly 200 kg of low-enriched uranium, just below the deal’s 202.8 kg limit. A quantity of 300 kg of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) corresponds to 202.8 kg of low-enriched uranium.
Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to have less than 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to a maximum of 3.67%. Previously, Iran enriched as high as 20%. It also held up to 10,000 kilograms of the higher-enriched uranium.
Zarif also said that Iran remained on track to raise its enrichment if Europe did not take any additional steps toward saving the accord.
“The next step is about the 3.67% limitation, which we will implement too,” he warned.
The deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions against Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear work. Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, including generating power.
After talks on Friday in Vienna, Iran said European countries had offered too little in the way of trade assistance to persuade it to back off from its plan to exceed the limit, a riposte to US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to quit the deal and reimpose economic sanctions.
In response to the US measures, Tehran announced in May it would abandon some of the limits on its nuclear activities imposed under the deal, threatening to give up two others by July 7 if the other signatories to the accord do not help it break the US embargo.
The EU said Friday after a crisis meeting aimed at salvaging a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that the INSTEX payment mechanism was finally "operational" and that the first transactions were being processed.
Trade channel not enough
Zarif said Monday that the mechanism set up by European powers to help Iran skirt US sanctions will be of limited use but it has highlighted a welcome distance between Washington and its allies.
"Although it does not meet the demands of the Islamic Republic, (or) Europeans' obligations... it has a strategic value (in showing) that the closest allies of the United States are distancing themselves from America in their economic relations," Zarif said.
"This will certainly have long-term effects," he added, during a speech broadcast on Iranian television.
Britain, France and Germany launched the special payment system in late January to support transactions in the pharmaceutical, medical and agricultural-food sectors.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Sunday that another seven European countries will also join the non-dollar trade channel.
INSTEX is seen as key to EU efforts to preserve the deal but its promise of easing the bite of sanctions, which have cut Iran off from the international financial system and decimated its oil exports, has been slow to materialize.
In May, Washington piled pressure on Tehran by ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil, and tensions have been growing in the Persian Gulf ever since.
Washington has dispatched extra forces to the Middle East, and US fighter jets came within minutes of conducting airstrikes on Iran last month after Tehran downed an unmanned American drone.
Zarif reiterated that Iran would not bow to foreign pressure.
“Iran will never yield to pressure from the United States ... If they want to talk to Iran, they should show respect … Never threaten an Iranian ... Iran has always resisted pressure, and has responded with respect when respected,” He said.
Trump has called for negotiations with Iran with “no preconditions”, but Tehran has ruled out talks until the United States returns to the nuclear pact and drops its sanctions.
Reuters, AFP and AP contributed to this story.