Iran could have nuclear weapon within 1 to 2 years: France

EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to seek ways to guide the United States and Iran away from confrontation. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 January 2020

Iran could have nuclear weapon within 1 to 2 years: France

  • EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Friday
  • Iran has been gradually discarding the deal’s limitations on its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel

PARIS: Iran could have nuclear weapons in one to two years if the country carries on violating the 2015 nuclear accord, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.
“If they continue with unraveling the Vienna agreement, then yes, within a fairly short period of time, between one and two years, they could have access to a nuclear weapon, which is not an option,” Le Drian said on RTL radio.

Iran has been gradually discarding the deal’s limitations on its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in 2018, demanding tougher curbs on Iran.

Iran said its steps away from the deal are reversible if Washington returns to it and lifts crippling sanctions that have throttled much of Tehran’s lifeblood oil trade.

In a rare emergency meeting, EU foreign ministers, to be joined by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, may avoid any tough diplomatic response for now after Washington and Tehran backed off from an outright conflagration following the US killing of an Iranian general in Iraq and retaliatory missile strikes by Iran that avoided military casualties.

“Iran’s desire to prevent the crisis from escalating has bought us some time, it has the effect of cooling this down just a little,” a senior EU diplomat told Reuters.

The simmering tensions have highlighted Europe’s struggles to influence either side and play a mediating role with European powers Britain, France and Germany desperately trying to pressure Iran to stick to the nuclear pact.

They also want to convince Trump, who on Wednesday called on them to join him in withdrawing from the nuclear deal, that they are tough-minded allies who will not be deceived by Tehran.

Late on Thursday, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell spoke by telephone with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“We need to coordinate and maximise the effect everybody has in trying to de-escalate what the Iranians do, but it’s the same for the Americans. What’s most worrying is a miscalculation,” said a French diplomatic source.

NUCLEAR VIOLATIONS

Iran’s decision on Monday to scrap all enrichment curbs has also left the European powers in an awkward position.

Iran has repeatedly denied its nuclear programme has military rather than civilian ends. But it has already breached many of the deal’s restrictions meant to increase the amount of time Tehran would need to accumulate enough fissile material for an atomic bomb from two to three months to about a year.

The latest announcements could start reducing that time and the three European powers - who along with Russia and China have attempted to salvage the deal since Trump’s withdrawal - are keen to send a firm message that the breaches are unacceptable.

They have agreed to begin a dispute resolution process under the 2015 deal that could lead to renewed U.N. sanctions on Tehran, but have hesitated on the timing fearing Iran may react badly, given its current confrontation with Washington.

Despite its moves, Iran has said the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, can continue its on-site inspections at its atomic sites, leaving some wiggle room for diplomacy.

“Iran has not set any targets or deadlines when it comes to uranium enrichment targets, so that gives us time,” a second EU diplomat said. A third EU diplomat said the decision to launch the process had been made, but that Friday was unlikely.

“There is a concern that it could trigger an Iranian escalation,” said a European diplomat.


Emmanuel Macron loses cool with Israeli security in ‘Chirac moment’ at Jerusalem church

Updated 10 min 7 sec ago

Emmanuel Macron loses cool with Israeli security in ‘Chirac moment’ at Jerusalem church

JERUSALEM: When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Jerusalem’s Old City Wednesday, he also trod in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, Jacques Chirac, by engaging in a heated argument with Israeli security.

The altercation broke out when Israeli security forces pushed past the French detail and were first to enter the Church of Saint Anne, which is French state property.

“Everybody knows the rules. I don’t like what you did in front of me,” an animated Macron loudly told the Israeli personnel, speaking in English, in the crush to enter the building, which remains French territory under international treaties.

“Go out — outside please!” he added in a raised voice in scenes captured in video footage that quickly spread on social media.

The Roman Catholic church, located at the start of Via Dolorosa in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, has been part of France’s territories in the Holy Land since the 1850s.

The rules that have been in place “for centuries,” Macron told the Israeli officers, “will not change with me, I can tell you, OK? So everybody, respect the rules.”

Macron will on Thursday attend a ceremony to commemorate the liberation 75 years ago of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz death camp in what was then occupied Poland.

Wednesday’s tense scenes recalled a 1996 Jerusalem visit by late former president Chirac during which he also lost his cool with Israeli security agents who were pressing him to move on.

Chirac heatedly told them their actions were a “provocation” and angrily asked: “What do you want? Me to go back to my plane and go back to France, is that what you want?”