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Rouhani says Iran will enrich uranium to 'any amount we want'

Rouhani said Iran will exceed on Sunday the uranium enrichment limit. [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 July, 2019

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President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will exceed on Sunday the uranium enrichment limit it agreed in a 2015 deal with major powers, raising it 'as much as necessary'.

Iran's president warned European partners in its faltering nuclear deal on Wednesday that Tehran will increase its enrichment of uranium to "any amount that we want" beginning on Sunday, putting pressure on them to offer a way around intense US sanctions targeting the country.

The comments by President Hassan Rouhani come as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington over the deal, which President Donald Trump pulled the US from over a year ago.

Authorities on Monday acknowledged Iran broke through a limit placed on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

An increasing stockpile and higher enrichment closes the estimated one-year window Iran would need to produce enough material for a nuclear bomb, something Iran denies it wants but the nuclear deal sought to prevent.

Meanwhile, the Washington has rushed an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and F-22 fighters to the region and Iran recently shot down a US military surveillance drone.

On Wednesday, Iran marked the downing by the US Navy of an Iranian passenger jet in 1988, which killed 290 people and shows the danger of miscalculation in the current crisis.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Rouhani's comments seemed to signal that Europe has yet to offer Iran anything to alleviate the pain of the renewed US sanctions targeting its oil industry and top officials.

Iran's nuclear deal currently bars it from enriching uranium above 3.67 percent, which is enough for nuclear power plants but far below the 90 percent needed for weapons.

"In any amount that we want, any amount that is required, we will take over 3.67," Rouhani said.

"Our advice to Europe and the United States is to go back to logic and to the negotiating table," Rouhani added. "Go back to understanding, to respecting the law and resolutions of the UN Security Council. Under those conditions, all of us can abide by the nuclear deal."

There was no immediate reaction in Europe, where the European Union just the day before finalised nominations to take over the bloc's top posts.

On Tuesday, European powers separately issued a statement over Iran breaking through its stockpile limit, calling on Tehran "to reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal".

Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to have less than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium enriched to a maximum of 3.67 percent. Both Iran and the UN's nuclear watchdog agency confirmed Monday that Tehran had breached that limit.

While that represents Iran's first major departure from the accord, it still remains likely a year away from having enough material for a nuclear weapon. Tehran insists its programme is for peaceful purposes, but the West fears it could allow Iran to build a bomb.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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