Iran Deal No Longer 'Sustainable', Regardless of Trump, Deputy FM Says

Iran says it can produce higher enriched uranium if U.S. exits nuclear deal

Iran's president Hassan Rohani gives a speech in the city of Tabriz in the northwestern East-Azerbaijan province on April 25, 2018
ATTA KENARE/AFP

The Iran nuclear deal is no longer sustainable for Iran in its present form - regardless of whether the U.S. exits the deal or not, said Iran's deputy foreign minister Monday.

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FILE PHOTO: Iran's then chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi addresses the media at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria February 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader/File Photo
\ Heinz-Peter Bader/ REUTERS

"The status quo of the deal is simply not sustainable for us, whether or not the Americans get out of the deal," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, according to Iranian news agency Isna.

Meanwhile, a May 12 domestic deadline looms for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether or not to effectively exit the deal - designed to keep Iran from building up a feared nuclear weapons program. If he chooses to end it, he would reimpose sanctions on Iran.

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Iran has the technical capability to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before a multinational nuclear dealwas reached to curb its nuclear programme, state TV quoted the head of Iran's Atomic Energy organisation Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.

Salehi warned Trump against taking this course. "Iran is not bluffing ... Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached... I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal."

Under the deal, which led to the lifting of most international sanctions in 2016, Iran's level of enrichment must remain around 3.6 percent.

Iran stopped producing 20 percent enriched uranium and gave up the majority of its stockpile as part of the agreement with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

The Kremlin said Monday that France and Russia - two of the original signatories - had restated their commitment to the agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin spoke by phone and "called for preserving the plan and its full implementation," according to a statement reported by official Russian news agency TASS.

On a state visit to Washington last week, Macron sought to persuade Trump to stay in the deal.

But he also angered Tehran by repeating his call for a wider deal limiting Iran's ballistic missile arsenal and involvement in regional conflicts.

Aragchi, the number two on the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, said his country had "for all scenarios, the necessary options ready." 

Araghci and Foreign Minister Mohamed Jawad Zarif have recently stressed that implementing the economic promises of the deal were more important to its future than Trump's decision on a possible U.S. exit.

Iran is primarily concerned with bank sanctions, warning that, without the proposed economic benefits, there would be no reason to stay in the deal. 

Although all economic sanctions were lifted in January 2016, big European banks - fearing U.S. sanctions - have refused to finance Western trade projects with Iran.

Iran signed the nuclear agreement with the U.S., Britain, Russia, China, Germany and France in 2015, agreeing to 10 years of restrictions on their nuclear plan - including a ban on nuclear weapons - in exchange for a relaxing of economic relations. 

With the continued difficulties in securing Western investment, Iranian President Hassan Rohani has been unable to implement the economic reforms he promised Iranians after the deal, putting him under increasing pressure.