'A serious mistake’ France sends Iran stern warning against breaching nuclear pact

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    Relations between Washington and Tehran have soured dramatically ever since the Trump administration pulled out of a landmark nuclear accord between Iran and world powers. “Iran has announced its intention to no longer meet certain obligations of the Vienna agreement, in particular on the authorised stocks of low-enriched uranium from gas. They have announced this initiative for the coming days,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers. “An Iranian violation would be a serious mistake and a bad response to the pressure exerted by the United States,” Mr Le Drian said. His warning came after Iran said earlier on Tuesday that it would take new steps to reduce its commitments under its nuclear deal with world powers on July 7. Mr Le Drian added Paris, London and Berlin – the deal’s European signatories – remain mobilised to tell Iran it was not in its best interest to breach its nuclear commitments and they were working together to find ways to de-escalate the situation.

    “This accord is the best guarantee of stability for the entire region … because proliferation is the major risk and until now we are convinced Iran is respecting its commitments,” he added.

    Mr Le Drian’s comments came shortly before the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said that Iran would speed up enrichment of uranium after a deadline given to European countries to prevent this ends on Thursday.

    “The deadline of the Atomic Energy Organisation for passing the production of enriched uranium from the 300 kilogram border will end tomorrow,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Wednesday morning.

    “With the end of this deadline, the speed of enrichment will speed up,” Mr Kamalvandi said.

    The United States abandoned the deal in May last year and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.

    Iran says it wants to stay in the deal but cannot do so indefinitely unless European leaders find ways to shield it from the US curbs.

    Signed in July 2015, the accord lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s atomic activities.

    Relations between Washington and Tehran have frayed considerably since the US quit the deal, with tensions boiling over last week after Iran’s downing of an unmanned US drone.

    The incident has stoked fears of a direct military clash between the long-time foes, with US President Donald Trump targeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions earlier this week.

    Mr Trump told reporters the sanctions were in part a response to the drone incident, but would have happened anyway. He said Mr Khamenei was ultimately responsible for what he called the “hostile conduct of the regime” in the Middle East.

    Mr Trump also said he had cancelled retaliatory strikes on Iran at the last minute, rejecting Tehran’s claim that the aircraft was in its airspace.

    With tensions running dangerously high, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran did not want a war with the US.

    “Iran has no interest to increase tension in the region and it never seeks war with any country, including the US,” he said, quoted by the state news agency IRNA on Wednesday.

    The comments were made during a phone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who is among those scrambling to find solutions to save the nuclear pact.

    “We have always been committed to regional peace and stability and will make efforts in this respect,” Mr Rouhani added.

    Mr Rouhani blamed Washington for regional tensions and said that if the US had remained in the deal “we would have witnessed positive developments in the region.”

    Iran said in May that it would abandon two of its pledges under the nuclear deal, giving the remaining signatories – France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia – two months to help it circumvent US sanctions.

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