Iran said on Wednesday that it will not extend the deadline for European powers to save its nuclear deal against US sanctions, adding that it will not negotiate with Washington under pressure.
The spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said Tehran was ready to go through with a threat to enrich uranium to a higher level if Europe did not step in, a move that would breach the terms of a nuclear pact with world powers.
“Iran’s two-month deadline to remaining signatories of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) cannot be extended, and the second phase will be implemented exactly as planned,” atomic agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
Any such breach would raise already heightened tensions between Iran and US President Donald Trump who has said he is ready to take military action to stop Tehran getting a nuclear bomb.
Tehran said in May it would reduce compliance with the nuclear pact it agreed with world powers in 2015, in protest at the United States’ decision to unilaterally pull out of the agreement and reimpose sanctions last year.
Iran added that it would start enriching uranium at a higher level unless other European signatories to the deal protected its economy from the US sanctions within 60 days.
President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s actions were the “minimum” measures Tehran could adopt one year after the US withdrawal from the deal, but said they were reversible.
“If our demands are not met, we will take new measures after 60 days, calculated from May 8,” Rouhani said in a cabinet meeting broadcast on state television.
“But if they return to their commitments, we will cancel all measures taken in the first 60 days or possibly the second 60 days, and there won’t be any problem.”
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Europe was not helping to counteract US sanctions on its energy sector by buying its oil.
The 2015 nuclear pact seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.
The accord requires Iran to curb its uranium enrichment capacity, capping Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 percent or its equivalent for 15 years.
Trump said he was pulling out of the deal because it was not permanent and failed to address Iran’s missile program or punish it for waging proxy wars in the Middle East. Trump’s action has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
Britain, France and Germany have been planning a new push to keep Iran in the 2015 deal, but European officials have acknowledged they may be nearing the end of the diplomatic road.
Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane.
Washington blamed Iran, and the Pentagon announced the deployment of about 1,000 more US troops to the Middle East, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.
Iran has denied any involvement in the tanker attacks.
The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said on Wednesday there would be no military confrontation with the United States - echoing a statement from Iran’s president a day earlier.
The US said on Tuesday that Washington was not seeking war.
"We have a lot of things going with Iran," Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a campaign event in Florida. "We'll see what happens. Let me just say this: We are very prepared."
On a visit to US Central Command in Florida, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was confident the US is taking the necessary steps to confront any challenge from Iran.
He said the military is ready to respond to any attack by Iran on US interests or Iranian disruption of international shipping lanes through which much of the world's oil supplies flow.
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