Iran's enrichment move raises concerns in West

Published 08.07.2019 00:05

Iran announced Sunday that it raised its uranium enrichment level beyond the 2015 nuclear deal limits, in further defiance of U.S. efforts to squeeze the country with sanctions and force it to renegotiate the nuclear deal. The announcement has stirred fears in Western countries amid growing tensions in the region.

The French government said it will not trigger the Iran nuclear deal's dispute resolution mechanism for now, instead giving itself one week to try to get all parties talking again. "It's not an option at this moment," a source at President Emmanuel Macron's Elysee office said on Sunday. The dispute resolution mechanism could eventually lead to the reimposition of U.N. sanctions on Iran. Macron yesterday condemned the Iranian announcement, saying the decision was a "violation" of the agreement reached between Iran and world powers in 2015 to curb uranium enrichment.

Macron told his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, that he would try to have all parties resume dialogue by July 15, a statement released late Saturday showed. The statement did not mention what would happen if dialogue failed to resume by then.

Britain and Germany also urged Iran to halt uranium enrichment. The European Union stated that parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are discussing a possible emergency meeting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned that Iran's uranium enrichment has one purpose only "the creation of atomic bombs." Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting he repeated his call on European countries to immediately impose "snapback sanctions" set out by the U.N. Security Council, in response to Iran's recent move. "This is a very dangerous step, and I call on my friends, the heads of France, Britain and Germany: You signed this agreement and you said that once they take this step, there will be harsh sanctions," Netanyahu said.

The move marks Iran's second breach of the agreement, after it earlier this week confirmed exceeding a stock limit of 300 kilograms on its low-enriched uranium production. Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran's nuclear department, confirmed the move during a press conference, saying that enrichment levels would be increased incrementally to between 5 percent and 20 percent. President Donald Trump last year pulled the U.S. out of the accord and began imposing a "maximum pressure" campaign of strict sanctions on Tehran, over the objections of his European allies. The remaining powers in the agreement, including Britain, France and Germany, have sought to keep it alive by developing a money transaction system known as Instex that allows Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions and continue doing business with international partners. Iran has said multiple times that even if it does pull out of the nuclear agreement, the country has no intention of developing nuclear weapons.

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