TEHRAN – Iran is enriching more uranium than it was before signing a nuclear deal in 2015, President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Thursday.
Iran signed a deal with world powers in 2015 to scale back its nuclear ambitions, but the United States withdrew in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions against the Islamic republic.
“We are enriching more uranium than before the deal was reached,” Rouhani said. “Pressure has increased on Iran but we continue to progress.”
His statement follows one by his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who accused leading European nations, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, of succumbing to threats of tariffs by Washington if they did not denounce Iran for violating the terms of the nuclear pact.
“Appeasement confirmed,” Zarif said on Twitter, posted alongside a screenshot of a Washington Post report on how US President Donald Trump allegedly threatened to impose 25 percent tariffs on vehicles imported from the European countries.
Later on Thursday, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell met Zarif in New Delhi and insisted that Brussels wanted to preserve the agreement.
“Josep Borrell underlined the continued interest of the European Union to preserve the agreement, which is now more important than ever, in light of the dangerous escalations in the Middle East and the Gulf region,” the EU said in a statement.
Borrell met Zarif on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue, a political and economic forum organized by the Indian government.
The two leaders “agreed to remain in close touch and continue their engagement in the coming weeks,” the statement said.
According to The Washington Post, which cited European officials, the US government threatened the European countries with tariffs if they didn’t trigger the dispute resolution mechanism in the nuclear deal with Iran.
Under the terms of the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran could not exceed a limit of uranium storage of 300 kilos and enrichment level of 3.67 percent.
Germany, France and the UK triggered a dispute mechanism on Tuesday, claiming that Iran’s non-compliance with the nuclear agreement was unacceptable.
The JCPOA, which limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of the international economic embargo, is at the risk of falling apart since the US withdrew from it and re-imposed the sanctions.
Iran gradually began reducing its compliance with the agreement in May last year after it failed to get the other signatories (Russia, China, France, UK, and Germany) to counter the US sanctions.
On Jan. 5, Tehran announced that it would no longer abide by any of the limits on enriching uranium but would maintain its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allows inspections of its nuclear facilities by experts from the global nuclear watchdog.
Rouhani in his address said his government “is working daily to prevent a military confrontation or war,” adding that while the dialogue between Iran and the world was challenging, it was still “possible.”
The president warned that overcoming the ongoing crisis with the US would not be possible without the resistance and conviction of a “united nation,” in a reference to the internal divisions and widespread protests and condemnation of authorities after a Ukrainian Airlines plane was shot down last week, killing all 176 people on board.
The accident was the latest and deadliest development amid escalating regional tensions that were sparked by the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, to which Tehran responded by firing missiles at an American military base in Iraq.