TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on U.S.-Iran tensions (all times local):
The U.N.’s atomic energy watchdog has confirmed that Iran is enriching uranium above the threshold set in the 2015 nuclear accord.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says its inspectors verified Monday “that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67%.”
Iran had announced the move in recent days in a bid to pressure European powers to shore up the 2015 nuclear agreement following the U.S. decision to withdraw from the accord last year.
Semi-official news agencies in Iran earlier reported that the country began enriching uranium Monday to 4.5%, breaking the limit set four years ago in the deal with world powers.
The Vienna-based IAEA didn’t specify how much beyond the threshold Iran is enriching uranium. Uranium enriched to 90% is considered weapons-grade.
China has expressed regret over Iran’s breaching of the 2015 nuclear deal and blamed the United States, saying “maximum pressure” from the Trump administration, which withdrew from the accord last year, is behind the crisis.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang described the comprehensive agreement as the only realistic and effective way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue and ease tensions.
Tehran says it is now enriching uranium at a higher level than is allowed under the 2015 agreement with world powers.
Geng said at a daily news briefing that “maximum pressure” imposed by the U.S. was the “root cause” of the crisis. Since withdrawing from the accord, the U.S. has imposed heavy economic sanctions on Iran.
Geng called for a diplomatic solution, saying “it has been proven that unilateral bullying has become a worsening ‘tumor’ and is creating more problems and greater crises on a global scale.”
Germany says it is refraining from immediate measures against Iran, but will wait for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection report on Tehran’s claim it is enriching uranium above the level allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said Monday that the Vienna-based agency hasn’t circulated the report yet, but it was “more a question of days not weeks.”
Breul told reporters in Berlin as soon as the report is available, Germany will examine it and discuss with the others in the nuclear pact — Iran, Britain, France, China and Russia — how to proceed.
He added that “what’s important to us is to get Iran to abide by the agreement again.”
The U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the deal a year ago.
Semi-official media in Iran is quoting the country’s nuclear agency spokesman as saying Tehran is now enriching uranium to 4.5%.
The ISNA and Fars news agencies separately quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
Kamalvandi told the agencies this decision met the needs that Iran has now.
This comes a day after Iran announced it would break the 3.67% limit imposed by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
It earlier broke a limit put on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
Iran is asking Europe to come up with a way to help it sell its crude oil abroad and get around U.S. sanctions. However, Europe has yet to do so.
This comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S.
A Kremlin spokesman says that Russia is concerned about growing tensions between Tehran and the U.S. over Iran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.
Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Russia is concerned by Iran’s announcement it is raising its uranium enrichment levels, furthering its breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Peskov said that the Kremlin had warned that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the deal a year ago would entail negative consequences to global security. He called on all parties to use diplomacy to overcome the crisis.
Iran has given the remaining signatories to the deal — which include Russia — 60 days to find a way around crippling U.S. sanctions, or it says it will take further steps away from the deal.
Iran says the last chance for saving its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers will pass after a 60-day deadline.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters Monday that Iran won’t offer any further “deadlines” to save the deal by September.
The previous day, Iranian officials said the country would take further steps toward the “reduction” of its compliance with the accord after the deadline.
Iran has already breached the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment and stockpiling.
Mousavi said Iran is still open to negotiations with its European partners and expressed the hope they would “take steps forward” toward implementing their commitments.
Iran is pressuring European partners to find a way around U.S. sanctions and deliver the deal’s promised economic relief. The U.S. unilaterally withdrew a year ago.