Iran rolls back part of nuclear pact, may face more sanctions

France’s defence minister warned Iran could face more sanctions if it did not honour its part of the deal.
Wednesday 08/05/2019
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a cabinet meeting, Tehran, May 8. (Iranian Presidency via DPA)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a cabinet meeting, Tehran, May 8. (Iranian Presidency via DPA)

LONDON – Iran said it had started scaling back parts of its commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal on Wednesday and threatened to do more if world powers did not protect it from US sanctions, a year after Washington pulled out of the pact.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would move on to resuming high level uranium enrichment if the remaining signatories – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – did not make good on promises to shield its oil and banking sectors in the next 60 days.

France’s defence minister said he wanted to keep the nuclear deal alive but warned Iran it could face more sanctions if it did not honour its part of the deal.

“Today nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this agreement,” Florence Parly told BFM TV.

Tensions have risen on the eve of the anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

The Trump administration has restored US sanctions and extended them, effectively ordering countries around the world to stop buying Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.

In a speech broadcast on national television, Rouhani said he had written to the remaining signatories saying Tehran would start rolling back on its commitments by stopping selling enriched uranium and heavy water to other nations.

“If the five countries came to the negotiating table and we reached an agreement, and if they could protect our interests in the oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one (and will resume our commitments),” Rouhani said.

Rouhani warned of a firm response if Iran’s nuclear case is referred again to the UN Security Council, but said Tehran was ready for negotiations. “The Iranian people and the world should know that today is not the end of the JCPOA,” Rouhani said, using the acronym for the nuclear deal. “These are actions in line with the JCPOA.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: “After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue.”

Zarif said the remaining countries had a “narrowing window” to save the deal.

UN inspectors said Iran had continued to comply with the deal after the US withdrawal.

Washington’s European allies, which opposed the US pullout, have tried and failed to come up with ways to blunt the economic impact of the US move while urging Iran to continue to comply.

EU assessing Iran’s partial departure from nuclear deal

The European Union is in an "assessment phase" after Iranian President Hassan Rowhani informed the other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran will partially pull out of the agreement, a senior EU official said on condition of anonymity.

"The contents of the messages sent have to be analysed," he noted, adding that consultations would take place in the coming days between Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – the five powers that agreed the Iran deal alongside the United States.

EU foreign ministers will have a first opportunity to discuss the developments at regular talks in Brussels on Monday. Any EU decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran would have to be taken by all member states.

China says Iran nuclear pact must be upheld

China on Wednesday called on all parties to uphold the Iranian nuclear pact after Tehran said it would end curbs on its uranium enrichment stockpile unless other powers helped it bypass renewed US sanctions.

“Maintaining and implementing the comprehensive agreement is the shared responsibility of all parties,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing.

“We call on all relevant parties to exercise restraint, strengthen dialogue, and avoid escalating tensions,” he said, adding that China “resolutely opposes” unilateral US sanctions against Iran.

(AW and agencies)