Pompeo warns Iran of more 'isolation, sanctions'

US secretary of state warns of consequences after Tehran looked set on exceeding nuclear deal cap.

    Pompeo warns Iran of more 'isolation, sanctions'
    Iran said it would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days unless signatories of the pact protected it from US sanctions imposed by President Trump [Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo]

    Iran will face further sanctions in response to its expected breach of a uranium enrichment cap, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

    On Sunday, Iran said it was hours away from passing the cap set by an endangered nuclear deal reached with international powers but from which the United States withdrew last year.

    "Iran's latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions," Pompeo said on Twitter.

    Iran also threatened to reduce more of its commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the landmark 2015 agreement.

    The deal saw Iran  accept drastic limits on its nuclear programme and to submit to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections in exchange for a partial lifting of crippling international sanctions.

    But US President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the deal on May 8, 2018 - and subsequent sanctions - have deprived Iran of the economic benefits it expected and plunged it into recession.

    "Nations should restore the long-standing standard of no enrichment for Iran's nuclear program. Iran's regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world," said Pompeo.

    Even after the US pullout, experts said Iran had been complying with the agreement. 

    But Tehran, which has sought to pressure the remaining parties to save the deal, announced on May 8 it would no longer respect the limits set on its enriched uranium and heavy water stockpiles.

    It also threatened to go further and abandon more nuclear commitments unless the remaining partners - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - help it to circumvent sanctions, especially to sell its oil.

    Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson for Iran's atomic agency, said technical preparations for the new level of enrichment would be completed "within a few hours and enrichment over 3.67 percent will begin".

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    "And tomorrow [Monday] early in the morning, when the IAEA [UN nuclear watchdog] takes the sample we would have gone beyond 3.67 percent," he told reporters in Tehran.

    Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, said Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days unless signatories of the pact protected it from US sanctions imposed by President Trump. 

    Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons, but the nuclear deal sought to prevent that as a possibility by limiting enrichment and Tehran's stockpile of uranium to 300kg. On July 1, Iran and United Nations inspectors acknowledged Tehran had amassed more low-enriched uranium than the stockpile cap agreed under the nuclear deal.

    Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a Twitter post, said all of Tehran's moves were "reversible" if European countries upheld their commitments. 

    The three EU signatories "have no pretext to avoid a firm political stance to preserve JCPOA & counter US unilateralism," he added, referring to the nuclear deal by its formal name, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 

    Iranian officials have previously stressed that all the moves announced so far could be reversed "in hours" if the other parties to the nuclear deal were to make good on their side of the bargain - relief from sanctions.

    They also say Iran is not violating the deal, citing terms of the agreement allowing one side to temporarily abandon some of its commitments if it deems the other side is not respecting its part of the accord.

    SOURCE: News agencies