Iran announces 60-day uranium enrichment deadline with warning towards European countries

Hasan Rouhani warns his country will begin enriching uranium beyond permitted levels if countries including Britain do not act on economic sanctions


Benjamin Netanyahu chose the annual commemoration service for Israel’s fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to respond to Iran’s announcement on Wednesday that it was scaling back curbs to its nuclear prorgamme.

“I heard on my way here that Iran is preparing to continue with its nuclear programme,” he said.

“We will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons. We will continue to fight those who seek to kill us, and dig our roots even deeper in the soil of the homeland.”

Mr Netanyahu was responding to the Iranian decision, which had been expected, but which stopped short of violating the 2015 deal with world powers.

Tehran’s announcement was timed to coincide with the first anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, along with the governments of Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Under the new Iranian policy, announced by President Hasan Rouhani, Iran will resume building up its stocks of heavy water and enriched uranium, which had been limited under the terms of the deal.

The move is also partly in response to new US sanctions against companies and third countries which help Iran export these materials, which are by-products of nuclear energy plants. 

But Iran’s wider issue is with the sanctions, now crippling its economy, that were reimposed after being removed in 2015.

In the year since the US withdrawal from the agreement, the other signatories, especially the three European nations, have promised Iran to put in place financial mechanisms which would allow international companies to continue trading with Iran, despite the American sanctions. But they have largely failed to do so and most European companies have now left Iran.

Mr Rouhani warned that if the Europeans could not find a way to allow Iran to “reap the benefits” from the agreement in 60 days, Iran would begin enriching uranium beyond the permitted 3.67 per cent level, which would end its compliance with another section of the agreement.

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