DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Sunday it would further scale back its commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, raising its uranium enrichment level beyond agreed levels to produce fuel for power plants.
FILE PHOTO – A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
The announcement, confirming what Reuters reported on Saturday, signaled a growing challenge to escalating U.S. sanctions pressure.
In a news conference, senior Iranian officials said Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days, unless signatories of the pact moved to protect it from U.S. sanctions, but they left the door open to diplomacy.
Before the deal was sealed, Iran produced 20% enriched uranium needed to fuel its Tehran reactor and the level of enrichment for its southern Bushehr nuclear power plant was 5%.
“We will enrich uranium based on our needs … right now we don’t need to enrich uranium needed for Tehran reactor,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman.
“We will enrich uranium to the level that is needed for the Bushehr reactor.”
In a sign of heightening Western concern, French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had agreed to seek conditions for a resumption of dialogue on the Iranian nuclear question by July 15.
Macron’s office added that he would keep on talking with Iranian authorities and other involved parties to “engage in a de-escalation of tensions related to Iranian nuclear issue.”
Long-tense relations between Tehran and Washington took a turn for the worse in May 2018 when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal reached before he took office, and reimposed sanctions.
Under the pact, Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67% fissile material, well below the 20% it was reaching before the deal and the roughly 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon.
Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Keith Weir