Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a session of parliament to debate his proposed tourism and education ministers, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Rouhani said European nations are failing to implement their commitments following the U.S. pullout from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran ratchets up pressure ahead of weekend nuclear deadline

September 04, 2019 - 3:37 am

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian officials ratcheted up pressure Wednesday ahead of a weekend nuclear deadline for European nations to come up with a solution for Iran to sell its oil abroad in the aftermath of escalated U.S. sanctions.

President Hassan Rouhani reiterated a threat that Tehran would take additional steps away from the 2015 nuclear accord on Friday and accelerate its nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide a solution, calling it Iran's third, "most important step" away from the deal.

"Iran's third step is of an extraordinarily significant nature," Rouhani said, without detailing what that would entail, but saying a "decree will be announced today or tomorrow."

Meanwhile, both Rouhani and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi expressed doubts Europe would succeed in salvaging the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

U.S. sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal have curbed Iran's oil exports and sent its economy into freefall while what was left of the deal steadily unraveled.

At the same time, tensions have spiked across the Persian Gulf over mysterious tanker explosions, the shooting down of a U.S. military surveillance drone by Iran and America deploying more troops and warplanes to the region.

Under the nuclear agreement, Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But since Trump's pullout, Iran has already taken steps contrary to the terms of the deal although it insisted they remained within the framework of the deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last week that Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the deal. The U.N. agency also said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5%, above the 3.67% allowed under the deal but still far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.

French President Emmanuel Macron is leading talks seeking relief for Iran and de-escalation of tensions. This week, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif travelled to Moscow while Araghchi went to Paris and elsewhere in Europe to press for a solution.

Little seems to have come out of those trips.

"I see that it's unlikely a conclusion will be reached with Europe today or tomorrow," Rohani said.

Araghchi was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying "it is unlikely European countries can take an effective step" before the deadline.

Meanwhile, the idea of a phased credit line to pre-purchase Iranian oil has been floated amid the diplomatic efforts, something Araghchi reiterated.

Europe, he said, needs to compensate Iran in the "amount of $15 billion over a 4-month span" and "after that, Iran is ready for talks."

Rouhani indicated that after Friday's deadline expires and Iran takes the next step, another two-month deadline to Europe will follow with the aim to resume talks.

"They know what we want, and we know what they want," Rouhani said.

AP Editorial Categories: