'Room for dialogue' as diplomats urge Iran to follow nuclear pact
France urged Iran yesterday to reverse its first major breach of a nuclear pact with world powers as European states signalled they would not seek to reimpose UN sanctions - for now.
The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under the 2015 deal, a move that prompted US President Donald Trump to say Iran was "playing with fire".
Exceeding the limit could culminate in the return of all international sanctions on Tehran - but one European diplomat, asked if they would trigger the dispute resolution mechanism enshrined in the accord, said: "Not for now. We want to defuse the crisis."
A second diplomat said Britain, France and Germany would focus on bringing Iran back into compliance.
"In the immediate term, Iran must return to its obligations. There is room for dialogue," a French diplomatic source added.
Tensions with Iran have escalated since Mr Trump pulled the US out of the pact last year and moved to bar all international sales of Iranian oil. Washington also blames Iran for attacks on ships in the Gulf, which Tehran denies.
European signatories to the nuclear accord have sought to pull back the long-standing foes from direct confrontation, fearing a mistake could lead to war accidentally.
At the same time they are under US pressure to reimpose their own sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denies Iran is in violation of the accord, saying Iran is exercising its right to respond following the US withdrawal.
China, also a signatory to the deal, said it regretted Iran's move but urged all parties to exercise restraint and said the US policy of increasing pressure on Iran was the "root cause of the current tensions".
The nuclear deal lifted most international sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear work. It aimed to extend the time Tehran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, from roughly two months to a year.
Iran's main demand - in talks with Europe and as a precondition to any talks with the United States - is to be allowed to sell its oil at the levels before Washington pulled out of the deal and restored sanctions.
Iranian crude exports were around 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) or fewer in late June, industry sources said, a fraction of the more than 2.5m bpd Iran shipped in April 2018, the month before Mr Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal.
Iran says it will breach the deal's curbs one by one until it is able to sell that amount of oil, saying this is the least it should be able to expect from an accord that offered economic gains in exchange for nuclear restrictions.