Merkel, Macron, Johnson urge Iran not to flout nuclear deal
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Merkel, Macron, Johnson urge Iran not to flout nuclear deal

European leaders also plead with parties to not jeopardize a battle against Islamic State after Iraqi parliament demands exit thousands of US troops

From the left, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and President of the European Council Donald Tusk pose during a G7 coordination meeting with the Group of Seven European members at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, southwestern France, Saturday, Aug.24, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)
From the left, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and President of the European Council Donald Tusk pose during a G7 coordination meeting with the Group of Seven European members at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, southwestern France, Saturday, Aug.24, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)

BERLIN — The leaders of Germany, France and Britain on Sunday urged Iran to drop measures that go against the 2015 nuclear deal, after Tehran announced it would no longer abide by a limit on enrichment.

“We call on Iran to withdraw all measures that are not in line with the nuclear agreement,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British PM Boris Johnson said in a joint statement.

The 2015 agreement negotiated between Iran and the UN Security Council permanent members — Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States — plus Germany offered Tehran relief from stinging sanctions in return for curbs to prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons.

But US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal last year had largely left it in tatters, with Iran in turn progressively dropping key commitments in the accord.

With tensions rising following the US drone strike at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the European leaders also urged Iran to refrain from taking “further violent actions or support for them.”

“It is crucial now to de-escalate. We call on all the players involved to show utmost restraint and responsibility.”

The European leaders also pleaded with the parties to not jeopardize a battle against IS jihadists, after the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution demanding that thousands of US troops be ousted.

In this January 25, 2018 photo, American troops coordinate with Iraqi counterparts to launch airstrikes and artillery from a small complex in the town of Qaim, Iraq. (AP Photo/Susannah George)

“Preserving the (anti-IS) coalition is of great importance in this context. We call on the Iraqi authorities to continue to provide the coalition with the necessary support,” they said.

The US soldiers stationed across Iraqi bases are deployed as part of the broader international coalition, invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help fight IS.

The joint statement issued by the three leaders came hours after they spoke on the phone.

Earlier Sunday, a German government spokesman said the three leaders agreed to cooperate towards reducing tensions in the region.

Earlier, Iran’s state TV cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country will not observe limitations on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities. “The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations,” a state TV broadcaster said.

This photo released on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Iran insisted that it remains open to negotiations with European partners over its nuclear program. And it did not back off from earlier promises that it wouldn’t seek a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. It further raises regional tensions, as Iran’s longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to produce an atomic bomb.

Iran did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program. Tehran has already broken some of the deal’s limits as part of a step-by-step pressure campaign to get sanctions relief. It has increased its production, begun enriching uranium to 5% and restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

While it does not possess uranium enriched to weapons-grade levels of 90%, any push forward narrows the estimated one-year “breakout time” needed for it to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon if it chose to do so.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran’s program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA “will continue as before.”

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