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Iran says it will not reverse decision to boost uranium enrichment as French envoy visits Tehran

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, speaks during the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018.

JEENAH MOON/BLOOMBERG

By ERIN CUNNINGHAM | The Washington Post | Published: July 10, 2019

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran said Wednesday that it would not reverse its decision to enrich uranium beyond levels set by its nuclear deal with world powers as the United Nations' nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting to discuss the latest Iranian actions.

The head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said that Iran's move to boost its uranium enrichment was part of an "unchangeable strategy" to compel world powers to reset the terms of the nuclear agreement following a U.S. withdrawal last year.

He spoke in a meeting with French presidential envoy, Emmanuel Bonne, who was in Tehran Wednesday to ease tensions and help salvage the deal.

The remarks come as the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran's nuclear activities, convened in Vienna at the request of the United States.

"Iran's step-by-step reduction of its nuclear commitments is an unchangeable strategy and that will continue ... until Iran's demands are fully met," Shamkhani said, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

He accused Europe of failing to guarantee Iran the economic benefits promised under the deal, after the United States reimposed sanctions in the fall.

Earlier this month, Iran also breached the 300 kilogram limit on the amount of enriched uranium allowed under the agreement and warned that it would continue to scale back its obligations at 60-day intervals. European nations have urged Iran to reverse course and comply with the pact, which curbed Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for widespread sanctions relief.

But Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, have criticized Europe for what they say is a policy of censuring Iran while allowing U.S. violations of the deal to go unpunished.

The United States violated the agreement when President Trump abandoned the pact, also known as the JCPOA, and reimposed a near-total embargo on the Iranian economy in the fall.

"On one side, Americans described the JCPOA as the worst possible deal and withdrew from it," Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting Wednesday, according to the Mehr news agency. "On the other side, when Iran reduces its commitments to the deal, everyone expresses concern, while they should be concerned about the United States, which violated the entire agreement."

He said the U.S. request to convene the IAEA's board of governors was "ridiculous."

Iranian officials have said that Iran has reduced its commitments to the deal in line with the text of the agreement. But the gamble to pressure Europe has helped escalate tensions between Iran and the United States in the region, where a string of attacks on commercial tankers near the Persian Gulf have raised fears of a wider military confrontation.

Last week, British forces seized an Iranian supertanker transporting oil to Syria in violation of sanctions imposed by the European Union.

Rouhani Wednesday warned Britain of "repercussions" for commandeering the ship, which he called a "foolish act."

"The solution is halting economic terrorism against Iran. Then we can take necessary measures," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on the sidelines of Wednesday's cabinet meeting, Mehr reported.

On Twitter, he said that the United States "has no standing to raise JCPOA issues."

The United States "abhors [the] JCPOA, axed & violates it, and punishes all who observe it," he wrote.
 

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