Washington: The Donald Trump administration has announced that it will continue with its campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran and reiterated that the US will “never allow” it to develop nuclear weapons.
“The United States and its allies will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said in a statement on Monday, warning that “maximum pressure on the Iranian regime will continue until its leaders alter their course of action”.
“It was a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level,” Efe news quoted the White House spokesperson as saying.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has exceeded the 300-kilogram enriched uranium reserve limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said earlier Monday.
“Based on what I have been told, Iran has exceeded the 300 kg limit in accordance with its plan,” the foreign minister said in statements published by the ISNA news agency.
Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the United States withdrew from last year, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions.
Iran and the rest of the signatories – Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union – officially remain committed to the JCPOA.
The Iranian government agreed to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of economic and trade restrictions.
US President Donald Trump, however, ended sanctions exemptions for purchases of Iranian oil in April, ratcheting up tensions with Tehran.
The Iranian foreign minister said the moves by European countries to get around the US sanctions were ineffective and Iran would respond accordingly.
“We have clearly said what we will do and we will act accordingly. We deem it as part of our rights under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Zarif said.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meanwhile, confirmed Monday that Iran had exceeded the limits on its stockpile of uranium, which can be used as fuel in nuclear reactors or to make atomic bombs.
The IAEA, a UN agency, said its inspectors verified that Iran’s stockpile of UF6 was larger than allowed.
“We can confirm that the director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, has informed the Board of Governors that the agency has verified that Iran’s total reserves of enriched uranium have exceeded the 300 kilograms of enriched UF6 by up to 3.67percent,” an IAEA spokesman told EFE.
Diplomats told EFE that Iran has processed 2.2 kilos above the 202.8 kilos of low enriched uranium (LEU), which is equivalent to 300 kilos of UF6.
In light of the violation, the IAEA must inform both its Board of Governors and the UN Security Council, but Amano will decide whether to call an emergency meeting of the board.
A diplomat told EFE on condition of anonymity that the United States was pressuring IAEA officials to hold the emergency meeting, but Amano is trying to delay organizing it.
Trump has been a harsh critic of the JCPOA, calling it a bad deal made by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and former Secretary of State John Kerry.
The IAEA chief has 72 hours to decide whether to hold the meeting or not.