“Today, Iran threatened to enrich its uranium beyond the limits of the nuclear deal. This does not surprise us,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated.
By AP and World Israel News Staff
Iran will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days, the spokesman for the country’s atomic agency said Monday while also warning that Iran could enrich uranium up to 20% — just a step away from weapons-grade levels.
The announcement by Behrouz Kamalvandi, timed for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, puts more pressure on Europe to come up with new terms for Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
“Today, Iran threatened to enrich its uranium beyond the limits of the nuclear deal. This does not surprise us,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Monday during a memorial ceremony for Israel’s late presidents and prime ministers in Jerusalem.
“If it acts on its threats, the international community must immediately impose the previously-set sanctions mechanism. Israel will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu affirmed.
The nuclear deal has steadily unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the accord last year and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, deeply cutting into its sale of crude oil abroad and sending its economy into freefall. Europe has so far been unable to offer Iran a way around the U.S. sanctions.
The development comes in the wake of apparent attacks on oil tankers last week in the Mideast, assaults that Washington, among others, has blamed on Iran. While Iran has denied being involved, it has used mines in the past against commercial traffic around the crucial Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes.
Kamalvandi accused Europeans of “killing time” as the clock runs down.
“If this condition continues, there will be no deal” anymore, Kamalvandi said.
President Hassan Rouhani, greeting France’s new ambassador to Tehran on Monday, similarly warned that time was running out for the deal.
“The current situation is very critical and France and the other parties to the (deal) still have a very limited opportunity to play their historic role for saving the deal,” Rouhani said, according to his website.
Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. Kamalvandi said that given Iran’s recent decision to quadruple its production of low-enriched uranium, it would pass the 300-kilogram limit on Thursday, June 27.
UN nuclear watchdog declines comment
The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said last month that Iran still remained within its stockpile limits. The Vienna-based agency declined to comment Monday on Iran’s announcement.
Kamalvandi said Iran needs 5% enrichment for its nuclear power plant in southern Iranian port of Bushehr and it also needs 20% enrichment for a Tehran research reactor.
The nuclear deal had limited Iran to enriching uranium only to 3.67%, which is enough for power plants and peaceful purposes.
But after America’s pullout and escalated sanctions, Tehran set a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with better terms for the deal, saying otherwise it would take additional steps away from the accord, likely meaning it would boost enrichment further.
Kamalvandi enforced that stance, saying that Tehran will increase uranium enrichment levels “based on the country’s needs.”