Iran will face further sanctions in response to its expected breach of a uranium enrichment cap, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
On Sunday, Iran said it was hours away from breaching the cap set by an endangered nuclear deal reached with international powers but from which the United States withdrew last year.
“Iran’s latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions,” Pompeo said on Twitter.
Iran also threatened to abandon more of its commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the landmark 2015 agreement.
Iran’s latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions. Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment for Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 7, 2019
The deal saw Iran commit not to acquire an atomic bomb, to accept drastic limits on its nuclear programme and to submit to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections in exchange for a partial lifting of crippling international sanctions.
But US President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal on May 8, 2018 – and subsequent sanctions – have deprived Iran of the economic benefits it expected and plunged it into recession.
“Nations should restore the long-standing standard of no enrichment for Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world,” said Pompeo.
Even after the US pullout, experts said Iran had been complying with the agreement.
Iran has announced it will begin enriching uranium beyond the limit
set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – “in a few hours.”
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) July 7, 2019
But Tehran, which has sought to pressure the remaining parties to save the deal, announced on May 8 it would no longer respect the limits set on its enriched uranium and heavy water stockpiles.
It also threatened to go further and abandon more nuclear commitments unless the remaining partners – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – help it to circumvent sanctions, especially to sell its oil.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson for Iran’s atomic agency, said technical preparations for the new level of enrichment would be completed “within a few hours and enrichment over 3.67 percent will begin”.
“And tomorrow [Monday] early in the morning, when the IAEA [UN nuclear watchdog] takes the sample we would have gone beyond 3.67 percent,” he told reporters in Tehran.
Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days unless signatories of the pact protected it from US sanctions imposed by President Trump.
Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons, but the nuclear deal sought to prevent that as a possibility by limiting enrichment and Tehran’s stockpile of uranium to 300kg. On July 1, Iran and United Nations inspectors acknowledged Tehran had amassed more low-enriched uranium than the stockpile cap agreed under the nuclear deal.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a Twitter post, said all of Tehran’s moves were “reversible” if European countries upheld their commitments.
The three EU signatories “have no pretext to avoid a firm political stance to preserve JCPOA & counter US unilateralism,” he added, referring to the nuclear deal by its formal name, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Iran plays diplomatic hardball on the eve of enrichment deadline