Iran to ramp up nuclear plans if talks with EU fail
The Iran nuclear deal frayed further yesterday when President Hassan Rouhani said his country was unlikely to reach a much-anticipated agreement with Europe this week and would unveil further plans to boost its atomic activities.
At the same time, Mr Rouhani added Tehran would give the Europeans two more months to find a way around punishing US sanctions on its oil exports, a sign he was in no rush to scuttle the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
Tehran has warned for weeks that if the European Union, a partner in the 2015 multilateral accord, could not work out a mechanism by September 6 that would allow Iran to export oil, it would embark on the third and most significant stage of its plan to gradually scale back its commitments.
Mr Rouhani said he didn't expect a resolution by tomorrow's deadline. He didn't offer a timeline or spell out what elements of the accord his country would abandon, but said the measures would represent a "significant acceleration" of Iran's atomic work.
"Europe has a two-month opportunity to return to its commitments, for talks and to reach an agreement," he said.
Mr Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron have been scrambling over the past week to agree on a proposal that would give Iran de facto waivers from strict US sanctions through a $15bn (€13.6bn) line of credit which would help to restore oil exports, the backbone of the Iranian economy.
Such an arrangement would require American approval to work, and President Donald Trump had signalled support for such a lifeline to relieve the hardship ordinary Iranians have suffered since the US quit the nuclear agreement last year and reimposed tight sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.
But yesterday, a senior US administration official termed the French plan a non-starter, though talks between France and Iran continue.
"We are pretty sceptical of this," a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.
"We have not yet seen anything, a concrete proposal that would be compliant with our sanctions and other actions so it's very difficult to judge," the official said.
Mr Rouhani hit out at US resistance, saying: "In the US there are hard-liners, neo-cons and racists who do not want the relationship between Iran and the US to be right, and whenever we move forward in this regard, they spoil it.
"The US exit from the nuclear deal was the result of this triangle of radicalism inside the White House," he said, in a reference to Mr Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.