Iran pulling out of 'some obligations' in its nuclear deal
Iran has said it is pulling out of "some commitments" made under its international nuclear deal, and will resume higher enrichment of uranium in 60 days unless a new agreement can be reached.
President Hassan Rouhani said he had informed the world powers still backing the deal, as well as Russia.
His announcement came in a live speech on the anniversary of Donald Trump's decision to pull the US out of the accord, which has since seen crippling sanctions reintroduced against Iran.
In a televised speech, Mr Rouhani said that Iran would hold on to stockpiles of excess uranium and heavy water used in its 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."
In November, the United States reimposed sanctions that have strangled Iran's oil and banking sectors as well as its foreign trade. The sanctions came after the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the pact that Iran negotiated with world powers in 2015, and that curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for widespread sanctions relief.
Mr Rouhani's speech coincided with the first anniversary of the US withdrawal and came amid heightened American economic and military pressure on Iran, including the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Middle East that US officials say was in response to credible indications Tehran planned to attack US interests in the region.
The measures announced by Mr Rouhani came after speculation that Iran would take a more provocative approach, including fully exiting the accord or moving immediately to higher uranium enrichment. It was unclear whether the less dramatic moves it adopted would prevent a further unravelling of the deal or forestall additional punitive measures by allies or adversaries.
"Today, nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this accord," French Defence Minister Florence Parly told France's BFMTV yesterday.
Asked whether Iran could face sanctions as a result of its decision, Ms Parly said: "Probably. That will be one of the things that will be examined."
But she said that Europe remained committed to supporting the agreement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been staunchly opposed to the Iranian nuclear deal since the outset and credits his own lobbying for triggering the Trump administration's withdrawal, referred to Mr Rouhani's announcement during a ceremony yesterday to mark Israel Memorial Day.
"We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons," he said. "We will continue with the struggle against those who seek to destroy our lives."
Israel's security establishment has been more mixed in its assessment of the advantages of retaining a deal and is concerned that Iran will accelerate its nuclear programme in the near future, Israel's Army Radio reported. The military believes that in the wake of US sanctions and international pressure on Iran, Tehran will be more assertive in the region and Israel is "braced" for Iranian aggression.
The US 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 programme, despite protests by European allies.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House to the Iranian announcement. (© The Washington Post)