European nations take conciliatory line on Iran
Iran has delayed a threat to breach its nuclear deal commitments while it waits for Europe to put finishing touches to a multimillion-pound credit line to help it circumvent US sanctions.
The Islamic Republic had said its stocks of low enriched uranium would breach the 300kg limit allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, yesterday.
But officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency said enrichment had gone more slowly than expected and that Iran was not likely to hit the limit until the weekend.
Representatives of Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the EU - the remaining signatories of the agreement - are expected to meet to discuss a possible Iranian violation of the agreement in Vienna today.
The three European nations are expected to use the meeting to announce a new credit instrument designed to facilitate trade with Iran.
The mechanism, called Instex, is meant to allow European companies to sell essential goods to Iran without falling foul of US financial sanctions.
Britain, France and Germany are expected to put up a small amount of money to kick-start it. The US has been critical of the initiative.
France said it would ask US President Donald Trump to suspend some sanctions on Iran to allow negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis.
A week after Mr Trump called off air strikes on Iran minutes before impact, world leaders are trying to pull the two countries back from the brink, warning that a mistake on either side could lead to war.
"I want to convince Trump that it is in his interest to reopen a negotiation process [and] go back on certain sanctions to give negotiations a chance," French President Emmanuel Macron said in Japan, where he is due to meet Mr Trump on the sidelines of a summit in the coming days.
A move by Tehran that clearly breached its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers would transform the diplomatic landscape and probably force European countries to take sides.
Mr Macron said he had two priorities: de-escalating military tension and keeping Iran from violating the accord, which European countries still hope to save even though Mr Trump ignored their advice and quit it last year.
The United States withdrew from the pact last year under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear programme in return for access to international trade. Iran has said it wants to abide by the agreement but cannot do so indefinitely as new US sanctions mean it is receiving none of the benefits.
The escalating crisis has put the United States in the position of demanding its European allies enforce Iranian compliance with an accord Washington itself rejects.
Meanwhile, on the domestic political front, two friends of a woman who has accused Mr Trump of raping her in the 1990s have said she told them about the alleged attack at the time.
Journalist E Jean Carroll claims Mr Trump sexually assaulted her in a dressing room at the luxury Manhattan store Bergdorf Goodman more than 20 years ago.
The US president has strongly denied the allegation, saying Ms Carroll was "totally lying" and that he had never met the magazine columnist.
Yesterday, two women, both journalists, came forward to support Ms Carroll's claims, saying she had confided in them at the time.
Carol Martin, a former New York news anchor, and Lisa Birnbach, a writer, described their reactions in a New York Times podcast.
Ms Birnbach said Ms Carroll described being penetrated, but refused to go to the police.
Ms Martin said she spoke to her friend within a few days of the alleged assault, recalling that Ms Carroll seemed to be "handling it" on her own.