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European deal signatories criticize US move on Iran nuclear, oil sanctions

European Union flags. (Thijs ter Haar/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The European Union and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany expressed concern about the U.S. decision not to extend two waivers related to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and others regarding Tehran’s oil industry.

The EU and the three European signatories of the accord said in a joint statement on May 4 that they were troubled by the U.S. decision “not to fully renew waivers for nuclear nonproliferation projects in the framework” of the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the [JCPOA],” they wrote.

“It aims at having a positive impact not only on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of the Iranian people,” the statement added.

The United States under then-President Barack Obama, along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China, signed the landmark accord with Iran in 2015 that provided Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

But U.S. President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the deal and began reimposing sanctions, although he granted some waivers. In withdrawing, Trump said Tehran was not living up to the “spirit” of the accord because of its support for militants in the region and for continuing to test nuclear weapons. Tehran denied the charges.

Tehran and the other signatories opposed the U.S. move and said they would remain part of the deal.

According to nuclear inspectors, Tehran has kept its nuclear program within the main limits imposed by the accord. Under the terms, Iran is allowed to keep 300 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent — far below the level needed to build nuclear weapons.

Iran was to sell off any enriched uranium above the limit on international markets in return for natural uranium. It was also allowed to store excess heavy water produced in the uranium-enrichment process in Oman.

The United States on May 3 announced it would not extend two sanctions waivers regarding Iran’s nuclear activities as part of efforts to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would impose sanctions on anyone involved in the trade of natural for enriched uranium — as well as in the storage of Iranian heavy water that was in excess of limits.

Washington did extend five other waivers for up to 90 days related to elements of Tehran’s civilian nuclear program.

They allow for work to continue at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex, and the Tehran Research Reactor.

However, it warned that sanctions could be imposed on countries if they provide assistance to expand the Bushehr facility beyond the one existing reactor.

Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani on May 4 said Iran will continue to enrich uranium in accordance with the accord regardless of U.S. moves to put a stop to it.

“Under the [accord], Iran can produce heavy water and this is not in violation of the agreement. Therefore, we will carry on with enrichment activity,” the semiofficial news agency ISNA quoted Larijani as saying.

The EU and the European powers also on May 4 said they took note “with regret and concern of the decision by the United States not to extend waivers with regards to trade in oil with Iran.”

The United States earlier in the week decided not to extend waivers granted to eight countries that allowed them to continue to do business with Iran’s crucial oil-export industry. Washington is attempting to bring the country’s oil exports down to zero by pressuring buyers.