Europeans Assail Iran’s Decision to Surpass Enrichment Limit

European nations assailed Iran on Sunday for its decision to increase its enrichment of uranium beyond the levels of a 2015 nuclear deal that restrained its nuclear program.  Iran announced earlier Sunday that it would soon begin enriching uranium beyond the 3.67% limit mandated in its agreement with international powers. Reuters reported that Iran may raise the enrichment level to 5% to produce fuel for power plants, although Iran did not immediately disclose a new enrichment percentage.Britain urged Iran to “immediately stop and reverse” all actions that are inconsistent with the agreement, under which it accepted restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.France said Iran’s move  was a “violation” of the international pact, while Germany called on Tehran “to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent” with its agreement four years ago. The European Union said the remaining signatories to the pact after the United States pulled out last year are considering an emergency meeting to consider its next response.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a long-time foe of Iran, said, “The enrichment of uranium is made for one reason and one reason only – it’s for the creation of atomic bombs.”U.S. President Donald Trump last year pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, arguing that it has used the sanctions relief to finance destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East. European powers, along with Russia and China, have tried to save the deal.FILE – President Hassan Rouhani listens to explanations of nuclear achievements in Tehran, April 9, 2018.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani first suggested last week that his country would begin enriching uranium at higher levels unless it received more help on sanctions relief from the other signatories to the 2015 agreement. .That agreement was meant to allay fears that Iran was working toward a nuclear weapon. The deal barred Iran from enriching uranium above 3.67% and said it could hold only 300 kilograms of such material in its stockpiles. Iran says it also has breached the 300-kilogram limit.The 3.67% level is sufficient for nuclear power purposes, but far below the 90% enrichment that is needed for nuclear arms.Rouhani said recently that Iran was prepared to enrich “any amount that we want” beyond the 3.67% level. He further pledged to resume construction of the Arak heavy water reactor, a project that Iran agreed to shut down when it signed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.Iran has been seeking European support since the United States withdrew from the agreement and imposed several rounds of new sanctions, including measures targeting Iran’s key oil sector.FILE – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference in Tehran, June 10, 2019. Last week, Iran announced it had already surpassed the 300-kilogram enriched uranium limit, but officials including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have said Iran was ready to go back to observing the limits under the accord if it gets economic help from the other nations involved in the deal. The remaining signatories have all voiced concern about Iran’s stockpile limit breach.  Britain, France, Germany and the European Union said in a joint statement recently they had been “consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Ira,n” 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.”Russia and China, two other world powers that have stuck to the 2015 agreement, have also objected to Iran’s breaching of the uranium stockpile provision. 

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