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Europeans urge Iran not to step away from nuclear commitments

Arak IR-40 Heavy Water Reactor, Iran (Nanking2012/WikiCommons)
September 08, 2019

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

European powers are calling on Iran to refrain from any action that contravenes its commitments to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, after Tehran warned it will lift all limits on its development of centrifuges to speed up uranium enrichment.

Iran has yet to announce what exact steps it will take as a deadline it gave Europeans to salvage the agreement between Tehran and world powers is set to expire on September 6.

The French Foreign Ministry said on September 5 that Iran “must refrain from any concrete action that is not in line with its commitments and that may hinder deescalation efforts.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Office called Iran’s plan to suspend limits on nuclear research and development “deeply concerning.”

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“This third step away from its commitments under the nuclear deal is particularly disappointing at a time when we and our European and international partners are working hard to de-escalate tensions with Iran,” it said in a statement.

European Commission spokesman Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela urged Iran to “reverse these steps and refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal.”

During a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would inform European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini “in a few hours about Iran’s decision that will be implemented on Friday [September 6],” the official IRNA news agency reported.

According to Iranian media, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization is to detail the country’s next step during a press conference on September 7.

U.S. President Donald Trump last year abandoned the nuclear deal that gave Iran access to world trade, including the sale of oil, in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Crippling Sanctions 

Washington has since reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy, while Tehran has already stopped abiding by two commitments and threatened to further breach them if the Western European signatories to the deal — France, Germany, and Britain — do not offer economic relief. Russia and China are the two other signatories to the agreement.

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Iranian officials have given a cautious welcome to a French proposal to offer Iran a $15-billion credit line until the end of the year — guaranteed by oil — in return for Tehran adhering again to the terms of the nuclear pact.

On September 4, Brian Hook, the State Department coordinator on Iran, ruled out providing any sanctions waivers to accommodate the French proposal.

Speaking in a televised speech later in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said Iran would lift “all limitations” on its development of centrifuges on September 6, adding that the country will do “whatever is needed for enriching uranium in an accelerated way.”

He also said that Tehran will give Europe two more months to fully implement the terms of the nuclear accord. If that happens, Tehran would also reverse course and return to implementing the pact.

Under its agreement with world powers, Iran is allowed to operate restricted quantities of first-generation centrifuges.

The country is also allowed to continue research and development in a manner that does not accumulate enriched uranium, including work with certain types of advanced centrifuges.

Enriched uranium can be used to make fuel for reactors but also nuclear weapons, and more advanced centrifuges could enable Iran to produce material for a potential nuclear bomb faster.

Trump wants to force Iran to renegotiate the 2015 accord, arguing that the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and agree curbs to its ballistic-missile program.

Iran has refused, insisting that its nuclear program was strictly for civilian energy purposes.