Iran said on Sunday it will shortly boost its uranium enrichment above a cap set by a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, prompting a warning “to be careful” from US President Donald Trump, Reuters reports.
In a sign of heightening tensions, France, Germany and Britain – all parties to the deal – expressed concerns over the step taken by Tehran, its latest effort to force the West to lift sanctions ravaging its limping economy.
In a live news conference, senior Iranian officials threatened further violations, saying Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days unless European parties to the agreement protected it from 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 Organization.
“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.
Speaking to reporters as he departed Morristown, New Jersey, Trump warned Tehran. “Iran better be careful. If you enrich for one reason and I won’t tell you what that reason is but it’s no good. They’d better be careful,” he said.
Iran is “doing a lot of bad things”, Trump said but did not elaborate. “The way they want it, they would have automatic rights to have nuclear weapons. Iran will never have a nuclear weapon,” he added.
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.
Under the deal, most international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in return for limitations on its nuclear work.
Iran’s main demand – in talks with the European parties to the deal and as a precondition to any talks with the United States – is to be allowed to sell its oil at the levels before Washington pulled out of the agreement and restored sanctions.
The confrontation 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 US pulled out of last year.
Iran must immediately stop and reverse its activities, a spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office said on Sunday.
The European Union strongly urged Iran to stop actions that would undermine the pact, saying it was in touch with other parties and may set up a joint commission to examine the issue.
“The Iranian government is trying to create a crisis that will force a multilateral negotiation without precipitating a war,” said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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