VIENNA: Iran on Sunday renewed threats to boost its nuclear program unless world powers rescue the collapsing 2015 deal to curb it.
The new threats followed an emergency meeting in Vienna with the remaining other signatories to the agreement — the UK, Germany, France, the EU, Russia and China.
“We will continue to reduce our commitments to the deal until Europeans secure Iran’s interests,” Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqhchi said.
The 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), eased sanctions against Iran in return for limits on its nuclear program to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon.
The deal’s original signatories included the US, and the others have been trying to prevent its collapse since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s already struggling economy.
Tehran has responded by increasing its nuclear activities in breach of the deal, enriching uranium and increasing uranium stockpiles beyond the agreed limits. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Sunday that Iran would restart activities at the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor, in a further breach of the agreement. Heavy water can be used in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.
The Europeans say further breaches of the agreement by Iran would escalate confrontation at a time when Tehran and Washington are at risk of a miscalculation that could lead to war.
Tension with the West rose further this month when Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces boarded a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and forced it into an Iranian port, in retaliation for the British seizure in the Mediterranean of an Iranian tanker carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
The confiscation of the Iranian vessel was a breach of the nuclear deal, Araqchi said on Sunday. “Since Iran is entitled to export its oil according to the JCPOA, any impediment in the way of Iran’s export of oil is actually against the JCPOA,” the minister said.
The British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan arrived in the Gulf on Sunday to join a British frigate escorting UK-flagged ships, and Britain has proposed a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran again criticized that plan on Sunday. It “carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.