Iran warns of ‘strong step’ from atomic deal if no new terms

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Iran will “take a strong step” away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers if Europe cannot offer the country new terms by a deadline at the end of this week, a government spokesman said Monday as top Iranian diplomats traveled to France and Russia for last-minute talks.

The comments from Ali Rabiei reinforced the deadline Iran had set for Friday for Europe to offer it a way to sell its crude oil on the global market. Crushing US sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal over a year ago, in response to Iran’s refusal to stop supporting terrorist and proxy groups, have halted those sales.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Moscow, while Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi will also be in Paris to hold talks with French officials on Monday, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Other Iranian officials have given a less combative message online.

“Iran is willing to give diplomacy another chance,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted on Monday.

“On Monday, diplomacy in Moscow, Paris & Vienna will be pursued. Despite all the hardships of this trajectory, Iran is willing to give diplomacy, engagement and dialogue another chance,” Mousavi tweeted.

“However, let’s bear in mind that ‘opportunities pass like clouds’,” he added in the same tweet.

It’s unclear what the terms of negotiation are. In theory, anyone caught buying Iranian crude oil would be subject to US sanctions and potentially locked out of the American financial market.

Already, Iran has gone over the stockpile and enrichment limitations placed on it by the 2015 deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last week that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA as the deal is known.

It remains unclear what further step Iran will take, though it could involve restarting advanced centrifuges prohibited by the deal or further bumping up its enrichment of uranium.

- with AFP.

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