Iran said Thursday that its plans to enrich more uranium than allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal should not be regarded as Iran leaving the accord and rendering it void.
UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told reporters at a briefing Thursday that if his country exceeds limits on low-enriched uranium, the step can be quickly reversed as soon as Tehran sees recovery in its oil and banking sectors, which have been decimated by US-led sanctions.
Iran said earlier this month it would breach the limit on Thursday in response to the sanctions and an intensifying round of brinkmanship with the US that has set the region on edge.
Ravanchi said he didn’t have “any exact information” on whether the 300-kilogram limit has been breached, although multiple unnamed diplomats have said Iran is poised to surpass the key uranium stockpile threshold by the weekend, threatening the agreement it reached with world powers aimed at curbing its nuclear activity.
Diplomats told the Reuters news agency Thursday that the UN nuclear watchdog had verified Iran has roughly 200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, and is producing it at a rate of roughly 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) a day, meaning it will hit the limit of 202.8 kilograms in the coming days.
The nuclear deal caps Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride, which corresponds to 202.8 kilograms of uranium, according to the UN watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency.
He also said he hoped that at Friday’s meeting in Vienna of the five parties remaining in the nuclear deal, “tangible results can be achieved so that we can reverse our decision.”
Ravanchi said Iran wasn’t planning to get out of the 2015 agreement, which the United States left last year.
But he said Iran was “not happy with the Europeans” who are supporting the agreement — Britain, France and Germany — because it has taken so much time to put in operation a program to allow Iran to trade. The three countries said Wednesday they were finalizing a “special purpose vehicle” called INSTEX to facilitate trade while avoiding US sanctions.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has called for dialogue with Iran even as tensions have ratcheted up and it has slapped new financial penalties on the Islamic Republic.
Ravanchi rejected talks and said the US “maximum pressure policy is not designed to prepare for dialogue.”
“They want to act like the older brother telling the younger brother how to behave,” he said. “The right atmosphere” is needed, and right now “it’s an atmosphere of animosity.”
“Sanctions and dialogue are mutually exclusive,” he said.
Iran’s move to rev up its enrichment has raised alarm among the other signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — which have urged it to stick to its commitments.
On Wednesday, Ravanchi told the UN Security Council that Iran cannot “alone” save the nuclear deal.
“Iran alone cannot, shall not and will not take all of the burdens anymore to preserve the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is formally known.
But the Iranian ambassador argued that the US exit from the nuclear deal and the re-imposition of sanctions had rendered the JCPOA “almost fully ineffective.”
Ravanchi insisted that the other signatories, namely Britain, France and Germany, must find a way to compensate Iran.