Iran to quit NPT if its nuclear programme referred to UN: Zarif

Tehran says it will abandon key global treaty if European powers bring nuclear-deal breaches to the UN Security Council.

    Iran's military fires a long-range S-200 missile during an exercise in the port city of Bushehr [File: Amir Kholousi/ISNA via AP]
    Iran's military fires a long-range S-200 missile during an exercise in the port city of Bushehr [File: Amir Kholousi/ISNA via AP]

    Iran threatened to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) if European countries bring alleged violations of the historic nuclear deal with world powers to the United Nations Security Council.

    Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued the warning on Monday saying the Islamic Republic could take other steps before withdrawing from the NPT, without specifying them.

    "If the Europeans continue their improper behaviour or send Iran's file to the Security Council, we will withdraw from the NPT," Zarif said in comments carried by Iranian news agencies.

    The 190-member NPT, which was signed in 1968 and came into effect in 1970, bans signatories other than the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France from acquiring nuclear weapons - in return for allowing them to pursue peaceful nuclear programmes for power generation, overseen by the UN.

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    NPT is the foundation of global nuclear arms control since the Cold War, including a 2015 deal that Iran signed with the world powers, which offered it access to global trade in return for accepting curbs to its atomic programme.

    The Islamic Republic gradually stepped back from its obligations under the accord after US President Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018 and reimposed crushing sanctions that have severely harmed the Iranian economy.

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    Germany, France, and the UK accused Iran of violating the nuclear accord and launched a dispute mechanism last week, which could see the matter referred back to the Security Council and a reimposition of UN sanctions.

    "If the Europeans return to the commitments, Iran will also stop reducing its commitments, but if the Europeans continue as they have been... we have different options," said Zarif.

    'Door not closed'

    Earlier on Monday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman also warned more measures could be taken in retaliation for the European move.

    Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said Tehran had not closed the "door to negotiations" in efforts to resolve the dispute over the nuclear agreement.

    "Tehran still remains in the deal... The European powers' claims about Iran violating the deal are unfounded," Mousavi said.

    "Whether Iran will further decrease its nuclear commitments will depend on other parties and whether Iran's interests are secured under the deal," he said.

    Tehran has repeatedly held talks with European officials to find ways to keep the nuclear agreement alive, but has blamed the Europeans for failing to guarantee economic benefits that Iran was meant to receive in return for curbing nuclear work.

    Britain has said a "Trump deal" could replace the 2015 deal, while France has called for broad talks to end the crisis.

    Iran says it cannot negotiate with Trump, who broke promises by repudiating the deal reached under his predecessor Barack Obama. Mousavi repeated Iran's rejection of a "Trump deal".

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    Zarif skips Davos

    Mousavi also said Zarif will not attend this week's World Economic Forum in Switzerland after organisers changed his programme.

    The four-day annual summit, which kicks off in the Swiss resort of Davos on Tuesday, is overshadowed by escalating tensions between the US and Iran.

    Zarif's absence removes any chance of a showdown with Trump, who is expected to attend the forum.

    "They changed the original programme they had for him [Zarif], the programme that had been agreed upon, and came up with something else," said Mousavi. "Either way, this trip unfortunately will not happen."

    Since the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, tensions between Washington and Tehran have worsened, almost reaching a breaking point after a US drone attack on January 3 killed one of the Islamic Republic's top military commanders, Qassem Soleimani.

    Iran hit back five days later by firing a barrage of missiles at US targets in neighbouring Iraq, but causing no fatalities.

    Hours later, Iran's armed forces accidentally downed a Ukrainian airliner near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

    Trump previously threatened to hit 52 targets in Iran if it targeted US citizens or assets following Soleimani's killing.

    Iran, meanwhile, said the US bears some of the blame for the unintentional downing of the plane because of the heightened tensions.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies