Signatories to Iran Nuclear Deal Voice Concern Over Tehran’s Breach of Uranium Stockpile

WASHINGTON – VOA Persian’s Katherine Ahn contributed from Washington.The remaining signatories to the 2015 international pact to restrain Iran’s nuclear weapons development all voiced concern Tuesday that Tehran had exceeded the limit of how much low-enriched uranium it could stockpile.Britain, France, Germany and the European Union said in a joint statement they had been “consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran” and urged the Islamic Republic “to refrain from further measures that undermine” the accord.The three countries and the EU said they “are urgently considering next steps” after Iran announced Monday that it had “crossed the 300-kilogram limit” of its stockpile of uranium enriched up to 3.67%, a claim later confirmed by the United Nations atomic watchdog agency.U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal last year, saying it did not do enough to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons or engaging in other perceived malign behaviors.Russia and China, two other world powers that have stuck to the 2015 agreement, also objected to Iran’s breaching of the uranium stockpile provision.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Iran to “show restraint, not yield to emotions” and to comply with the deal’s provisions. But he also faulted U.S. economic sanctions against Tehran, saying they effectively prevented it from selling any excess uranium it is producing, a requirement of the deal.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov answers a question during a press conference, May 7, 2019.China expressed a similar view, voicing regret that Iran exceeded the stockpile limit, but contending that Washington’s economic pressure against Tehran was at the root of the problem.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “As we have repeatedly stressed, the U.S. ‘maximum pressure’ is the root cause of the current tension on the Iranian nuclear issue.”Dakota Wood, a senior defense researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, faulted the European powers, Russia and China for their reactions to Iran’s move.“There is an ability for the other signatories to the agreement to take action on that, to challenge what Iran is doing, and we’re hearing that those other countries are refusing to do that,” said Wood, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, in a VOA Persian interview on Tuesday. “This really indicates how little teeth and punch there are in the agreement to begin with, and that’s why President Trump withdrew. There were just too many flaws in it,” he added.President Donald Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing to Japan for the G-20 summit, June 26, 2019, in Washington.Trump on Monday said he thinks Iran is “playing with fire” by breaching the stockpile limit.”They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re playing with,” Trump told reporters at the White House.An earlier White House statement reiterated the U.S. position that it would “never allow” Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.It further said Iran should be held to a standard of no uranium enrichment and that the Trump administration would continue its pressure campaign against Iran “until its leaders alter their course of action.”FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sits for an interview with Reuters in New York.Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif argued that breaching the stockpile limit did not violate the accord, because the deal has a provision that allows one party to respond when another party leaves the agreement.Iran made the agreement with the six world powers and the EU in exchange for lifting of economic sanctions against Tehran. The United States withdrew from the accord last year and then re-imposed its sanctions to curb Iran’s oil exports and hobble its economy in an effort to force it to reopen talks on its nuclear program.Iran’s breach of the 2015 pact comes at a time of heightened tension in the Middle East centered on Tehran, whose military two weeks ago shot down an unmanned U.S. drone, with Washington claiming it did so in international airspace, while Iran says it was over its territory. The United States and Israel also have blamed Tehran for attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, on oil fields in Saudi Arabia and in Baghdad.Some U.S. national security advisers urged Trump to attack Iran military targets after the drone strike, but he backed off at the last minute after learning that such an attack would kill about 150 Iranians, which he said he did not think was a proportionate response to the downing of the unmanned drone.

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