Iran set a 60-day deadline for new terms to nuclear accord amid looming confrontation with United States
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday announced that his country was taking steps to halt its compliance with elements of a landmark nuclear accord, in a move that appeared certain to aggravate tensions with the United States.
In a televised speech, Rouhani said that Iran would keep stockpiles of excess uranium and heavy water that is used in nuclear reactors. He gave a 60-day deadline for new terms to the nuclear accord, after which Tehran would resume higher uranium enrichment.
“We are ready to negotiate, within the boundaries of JCPOA,” he said referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. “It is not us who has left the negotiation table.”
The speech coincided with the anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year, and came amid heightened American economic and military pressure on Iran, including the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Middle East that U.S. officials say was in response to credible indications Tehran planned to attack U.S. interests in the region.
Tehran’s intention to not fully abide by the terms of the JCPOA, represented the strongest steps taken by Iran to respond to comprehensive economic sanctions imposed by Washington last year.
Since withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on purchasers of Iranian oil and designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian military, as a terrorist group. On Friday, the State Department announced new restrictions on Iran’s civil nuclear program, despite protests by European allies.
In recent weeks, Iranian officials have indicated that the country could begin enriching uranium levels beyond what is permitted by the nuclear accord or limit access to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s monitors.
Uranium fuel used in power plants only needs to be enriched to a low level, however, when it is enriched to much higher levels it can be used to produce weapons.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House to the Iranian announcement. Rouhani sent a letter notifying the signatories to the nuclear deal of Iran’s reduced commitments on Wednesday, according to IRNA, the official state news agency of Iran.
The signatories — Britain, France, Germany and the European Union, in addition to Russia and China, have continued to support the nuclear accord and been unable to stem the White House’s determination to isolate Iran.
Zarif, during a visit to Russia on Wednesday, said that Iran “will not withdraw” from the nuclear deal, according to IRNA. “This is only an opportunity for the opposite parties to act upon their commitments,” he said, according to the news agency.
Kareem Fahim contributed from Istanbul.