Iran has begun implementing changes to its commitments under a nuclear deal with world powers, a spokesman for the country’s nuclear agency said, while stressing that the measures were not in violation of the agreement.
Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Monday that his country was beginning to set in motion actions ordered last week by President Hassan Rouhani, who had warned Iran will breach enriched uranium and heavy water limits as a response to sanctions applied by Washington after last year pulling out of the 2015 pact.
“After one year of patience, the Islamic Republic of Iran has started measures within the framework of the nuclear deal for the time being,” Kamalvandi told the al-Alam news website, according to a report on the interview from Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency. “They are no violation of the nuclear deal and we are actually using the nuclear deal’s capacities.”
Without elaborating the details of the planned action, Kamalvandi cited articles 26 and 36 of the deal, which discuss Iran’s right to suspend some of its commitments to the agreement if sanctions are brought back.
The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says Iran has previously complied with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw it limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But renewed American sanctions have wreaked havoc on Iran’s already-anemic economy, while promised help from European partners in the deal haven’t alleviated the pain.
Commenting on the role of the IAEA, Kamalvandi said it is an observer, not a judge.
Rouhani said in a televised address last Wednesday, a year after the US withdrew from the accord, that signatories to the deal have 60 days to come up with a plan to shield his country — already laboring under economic hardship — from new sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump. If negotiations fail, Iran will restart uranium enrichment to levels banned under the agreement, he warned.
Iran had stopped its sale of excess uranium and heavy water as a first step, Rouhani said, something required under the deal. A week earlier the US ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, and to sell its heavy water, which is used as a coolant in nuclear reactors, to Oman.
European powers have since rejected the “ultimatums” from Tehran, but vowed to fight to save the deal itself. The European Union has urged Iran to respect the international agreement, saying it aims to continue trading with the country despite US sanctions.
Following Rouhani’s announcement last week, Kamalvandi, the Iranian atomic agency spokesman, said that his country’s intention was to strengthen the deal and “bring it back on track.”
The Trump administration pulled America out of the deal in May 2018, saying it does nothing to stop Iran from developing missiles or destabilizing the Middle East. The Europeans insist that the pact is an important pillar of regional and global security and was never meant to address those other issues.
Already high tensions skyrocketed last week as US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the United States was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran.