Tehran - Iran will partially withdraw from the 2015 landmark nuclear deal signed with six other nations, President Hassan Rouhani announced on Wednesday and warned that his country will resume high level uranium enrichment if global powers fail to keep their commitments within the next 60 days.
Iran's president said Wednesday that it will begin keeping its excess uranium and heavy water from its nuclear program, setting a 60-day deadline for new terms to its nuclear deal with world powers before it will resume higher uranium enrichment.
Hassan Rouhani's address to the nation came on the anniversary of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw America from the atomic accord. Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged that the situation was dire.
"This surgery is to save the (deal), not destroy it," Rouhani said.
Iran sent letters on its decision to the leaders of Britain, China, the European Union, France and Germany. All were signatories to the nuclear deal. A letter was also to go to Russia.
President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would move on to resuming high level uranium enrichment if the remaining signatories - Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia - did not make good on promises to shield its oil and banking sectors in the next 60 days.
The 2015 deal saw sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. After the U.S. withdrew from the accord it restored crippling sanctions on Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis.
"If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal," Rouhani said.
There was no immediate response from the U.S. However, the White House said Sunday it would dispatch an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to the Arabian Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Iran.
Under terms of the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. That's compared to the 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.
The U.S. last week ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, as well as it being able to sell its heavy water to Oman. The U.S. also has ended waivers for nations buying Iranian crude oil, a key source of revenue for Iran's government.
Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67%, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90%. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20%, scientists say the time needed to reach 90% is halved. Iran has previously enriched to 20%.
Russian lawmaker: Iran is responding to US
A Russian member of parliament says Iran's partial withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord is a direct response to increased pressure from Washington.
Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma's foreign affairs committee, told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. has been ramping up pressure on Iran since President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal last year.
He noted that "U.S. sanctions were reinstated, the (Revolutionary Guard) was branded a terrorist organization, and just yesterday national security adviser John Bolton said, on Washington's behalf, that ships and bombers would be deployed to the Iranian coast."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told his Russian counterpart on Wednesday that Tehran’s decision to reduce some voluntary commitments within its nuclear deal with world powers was legal, the RIA news agency reported.
Zarif, in Moscow for talks, told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Iran’s actions did not violate the original terms of the nuclear agreement and that Tehran now had 60 days to take the necessary diplomatic steps.
Israel will 'not allow' nuclear-armed Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear arms after the Islamic republic said it would abandon limits on its nuclear activities agreed in a 2015 deal.
"This morning on my way here I heard that Iran intends to continue its nuclear programme," Netanyahu said at a ceremony on Israel's annual day of remembrance for its war dead.
"We shall not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon."
France: honor deal or face more sanctions
France's defence minister said he wanted to keep the nuclear deal alive but warned Iran it could face more sanctions if it did not honour its part of the deal.
"Today nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this agreement," Florence Parly told BFM TV.