Iran Announces Development of Centrifuges in Latest Breach of Nuclear Deal

Trump says he isn't ruling out a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rohani: 'Anything is possible'

U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rohani.
AFP

Iran's next step in its nuclear program involves the development of centrifuges, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a televised speech on Wednesday. 

"We will take all necessary steps to protect the Iranian nation's rights and interests ... Our third step [to scale back Iran's commitment to a 2015 nuclear deal] involves the development of centrifuges. We will take this step on Friday," he said, without elaborating. 

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Rohani also said the activities will be "peaceful" and under surveillance of the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran has been limited to operating 5,060 older model IR-1 centrifuges, a device that enriches uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas.

The country is allowed to test no more than 30 of the stronger, IR-6 centrifuges once the deal has been in place for 8 1/2 years. The deal is murky about limits before that point, which will arrive in 2023.

Both Rohani and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi expressed doubts Europe would succeed in salvaging the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, despite continued efforts.

But U.S. President Donald Trump left the door open to a possible meeting with Rohani at the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York. 

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement. Washington, D.C. May 8, 2018
\ Jonathan Ernst/ REUTERS

Asked about the possibility of meeting the Iranian leader at the United Nations, Trump told White House reporters anything was possible. "Sure, anything's possible. They would like to be able to solve their problem," he said, referring to inflation in Iran. "We could solve it in 24 hours." 

Trump has publicly said multiple times he would be open to talks with Iranian leaders, but Tehran has rejected any negotiations with Washington unless sanctions are dropped. 

The United States has been pressing Iran with sanctions since last year, when Washington abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, often referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. 

While European countries, including France, have been trying to push Iran to remain in compliance with the deal, offering proposals such as a $15 billion credit line for Iran to do so, Trump administration officials said on Wednesday they were skeptical of such maneuvers.