EU urges Iran to reverse course on uranium enrichment, stick to deal
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EU urges Iran to reverse course on uranium enrichment, stick to deal

As Tehran breaches cap in violation of accord and Israel calls for European sanctions, foreign policy chief says bloc still committed to 2015 agreement

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, from left, wait for the start of prior to a bilateral meeting as part of the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, on July 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, from left, wait for the start of prior to a bilateral meeting as part of the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, on July 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

The European Union on Monday urged Iran to abide by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, as Tehran breached the stockpile limits of low-enriched uranium set under its terms.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s spokeswoman said the EU urges Iran “to reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal.”

Spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic underlined that Europe “remains fully committed to the agreement, as long as Iran continues to fully implement its nuclear commitments.”

The EU has been struggling to keep the accord functioning, a year after President Donald Trump pulled the US out unilaterally, and re-imposed heavy sanctions on Iran.

“Iran has crossed the 300-kilogram limit based on its plan” announced in May, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told semi-official news agency ISNA.

Tehran, which has sought to pressure the remaining parties to save the deal, on May 8 announced that it would no longer respect the limit 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 — helped it to circumvent sanctions, especially to sell its oil.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Asia Society in New York, April 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

In further comments, Zarif insisted Iran had done nothing wrong. “We have NOT violated the #JCPOA,” he tweeted using an acronym for the nuclear deal.

He said Iran would “reverse” its decision “as soon as E3 abide by their obligations” — referring to the European partners of the deal Britain, France and Germany.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran had exceeded the limit that the deal had imposed on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU).

A diplomat in Vienna, where the UN’s nuclear watchdog is based, told AFP that Iran had exceeded the limit by two kilograms.

Russia and Britain — two of the six world powers that reached the 2015 deal with Iran — were quick to react.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said Iran’s move was a cause for “regret” but also “a natural consequence of recent events” and a result of the “unprecedented pressure” imposed by the US.

“One mustn’t dramatize the situation,” Ryabkov, whose country is a close ally of Tehran, said in comments reported by Russian news agencies.

Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter that London was “deeply worried” and urged Iran to stop taking any further steps outside the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal and “come back to compliance”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said it was “essential” that Iran stick to the deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded urged European countries impose sanctions on his country’s arch-foe Iran.

“You committed yourselves to act as soon as Iran violated the nuclear agreement,” a statement from his office quoted him as saying. “So I say to you: Do it. Just do it.”

On Friday, the European Union said after a crisis meeting aimed at salvaging the deal that a special payment mechanism set up to help Iran skirt the sanctions, known as INSTEX, was finally “operational” and that the first transactions were being processed.

A technician at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, February 3, 2007. (AP/Vahid Salemi/File)

But “the Europeans’ efforts were not enough, therefore Iran will go ahead with its announced measures,” Zarif said.

INSTEX, which “is just the beginning” of their commitments, has not yet been fully implemented, he added.

Iran has also threatened to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 percent from July 7. That remains far short of the 90% purity required to build a weapon.

The latest tensions coincide with a buildup of US forces in the Gulf and a series of incidents including Iran’s shooting down of a US drone it claimed had entered its airspace.

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