Iran refuses to back down from nuclear advancement

Iran’s envoy to Europe, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said last-ditch talks on Friday intended to persuade Iran to back off from its plans to breach limits imposed by its nuclear agreement with world powers were “a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran’s expectations”.

In recent weeks, Washington has blamed Iran for attacks on ships in the Gulf, which Iran denies. Iran shot down an American drone last week claiming it had entered its air space. Washington said the drone was in international skies, and President Donald Trump ordered, then aborted, retaliatory air strikes on Iranian targets.

The talks came a week after Washington called off air strikes just minutes before impact, as American diplomats say Iran is days away from exceeding the maximum amount of enriched uranium allowed under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the United States walked away from last year. The Trump administration argues that the 2015 agreement reached under his predecessor Barack Obama was too weak because many terms are not permanent and it excludes non-nuclear issues such as missiles and Iran’s regional behavior. Washington says the aim of sanctions is to force Tehran to renegotiate.

Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China are still on board with the nuclear agreement and held urgent talks with Iranian officials on Friday in Vienna in hope of persuading Tehran to hold off. The Europeans say breach of the agreement by Iran would escalate confrontation at a time when Tehran and Washington are at risk of a miscalculation that could trigger a war. Any move by Iran that violated the terms of the nuclear deal would put pressure on the Europeans to take sides, where a senior European diplomat said, “We want them to stay in the accord, but we won’t accept them messing us around.”

Iran said it is ramping up its nuclear program and had announced dates when this would push it past limits in the deal. The first big deadline passed on Thursday, the day Tehran said it would accumulate more enriched uranium than the deal allows. Another deadline falls on July 7 when Iran says it will have enriched some uranium to a purity forbidden under the deal. Tehran says it still aims to keep the deal alive and any breaches could be reversed.