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Iran will lift all limits on nuclear R&D

China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-06 09:52

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a regional conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, June 15, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Rouhani calls it the 'most important step' away from 2015 nuclear deal

TEHERAN - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday ordered the removal of all limits on nuclear research and development, taking the country's third step in scaling down its commitments to a 2015 deal with world powers.

His announcement came shortly after the United States hit the Islamic Republic with further sanctions, the latest in a series of punitive measures including an embargo on Iranian oil exports.

Iran and three European countries - the United Kingdom, France and Germany - have been engaged in talks to reduce tensions and save the nuclear deal that has been unraveling since US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in May last year.

But late on Wednesday, Rouhani made good on a declared intention to take another step away from the multilateral deal signed with the five permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council and Germany (P5+1).

"Iran's third step is of an extraordinarily significant nature. The atomic energy organization (of Iran) is ordered to immediately start whatever is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place regarding research and development," Rouhani said.

He referred to "expansions in the field of research and development, centrifuges, different types of new centrifuges, and whatever we need for enrichment".

Iran in July abandoned two other nuclear commitments: To keep its stockpile of enriched uranium below 300 kilograms, and maintain a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.

Rouhani had earlier on Wednesday told a Cabinet meeting:"I don't think that... we will reach a deal".

But he had also said that Teheran and the European powers had been getting closer to an agreement on a way to resolve burning issues.

"If we had 20 issues of disagreement with the Europeans in the past, today there are three issues," he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, last month in France at the G7 meeting, encouraged Trump to offer economic incentives to Teheran and dangled the possibility of a summit between the US and Iranian presidents.

Trump made clear on Wednesday that he was still interested in meeting Rouhani when the Iranian leader visits New York for the opening of the annual UN General Assembly this month.

"Sure, anything is possible," Trump told reporters.

But Rouhani has already ruled out a summit without sanctions relief, and on Wednesday the Trump administration issued its third set of sanctions on Iran in less than a week.

In the latest salvo, the US Treasury Department put on its blacklist a shipping network of 16 entities, 10 people and 11 vessels that it said was selling oil on behalf of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard's Qods Force.

The network sold more than $500 million worth of oil this spring, mostly to Syria, benefiting both the Syrian government and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the department said.

A US official said that the move showed Washington's position on relaxing sanctions - and warned that more would come.

"We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure and we are not looking to grant any exceptions or waivers," Brian Hook, the US State Department coordinator on Iran, told reporters.

Iran has said it will resume full compliance with the nuclear deal if it reaches a deal with France on a $15-billion credit line, which Teheran would repay once it resumes oil exports.

The US is currently trying to block such shipments with unilateral sanctions.

Hook stopped short of criticizing the credit line itself, saying there was no "concrete" proposal.

Hawks in the Trump administration adamantly oppose any easing of pressure, saying their goal is not only to contain Iran's nuclear program but to curb Iran's influence across the Middle East.

Iran had long threatened to carry out a third set of nuclear countermeasures by Friday unless other parties to the deal offset the effect of US sanctions in return for its continued compliance.

Agencies - Xinhua

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