Iran to continue uranium enrichment despite US pressure

The EU has voiced concerns over extra US sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear programme

epa07493117 A handout photo made available by the presidential office shows Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (C) and head of Iran's nuclear technology organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (L) unveiling nuclear technology achievements during the National Nuclear Technology Day in Tehran, Iran, 09 April 2019. According to media reports, Iran unveiled its 114 nuclear achievements as president Rouhani condemned the US following a statement by US President Donald J. Trump designating Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.  EPA/PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Iran has said it will continue uranium enrichment and heavy water production despite US pressure on the Islamic republic to end it.

Iran will continue with low-level uranium enrichment in line with its nuclear deal with world powers, Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying on Saturday, despite a US move to stop it.

"Under the (nuclear accord) Iran can produce heavy water, and this is not in violation of the agreement. Therefore we will carry on with enrichment activity," the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The Fars agency carried a similar report.

On Friday, the US said it did not renew two sanctions waivers – one that had allowed Iran to store excess heavy water produced in the uranium enrichment process in Oman, and another that allowed Iran to swap enriched uranium for raw yellow cake with Russia.

That decision was aimed to force Iran to stop enriching uranium, something it was allowed to do up to certain limits under the nuclear deal. Highly enriched uranium can be used to fuel a nuclear weapon.

The European Union voiced "concern" on Saturday over extra US sanctions aimed at unpicking an international deal with Iran that has curbed the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

In a statement, the EU and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain – the three EU powers that led the initial nuclear negotiations with Iran – said they took note "with regret and concern of the decision by the United States not to extend waivers with regards to trade in oil with Iran".

They also said they were concerned by the US decision "not to fully renew waivers for nuclear non-proliferation projects in the framework of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]" – the title of the nuclear deal.

The United States also scrapped its sanctions waiver that had allowed Iran to evade a 300-kg limit on the amount of low-enriched uranium it can store under the nuclear deal at its main nuclear facility of Natanz.

The US also said it would no longer waive sanctions that allowed Iran to ship to Oman for storage heavy water produced at its Arak facility beyond a 300-tonne limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal.

A senior parliamentarian called for talks with Iran's partners in the nuclear deal and the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure Iran could continue to enrich uranium, ISNA reported.

"With new sanctions, America wants to slow Iran's nuclear industry, so new talks should be held with nuclear deal members and the IAEA to approve that Iran can enrich fuel to 20 per cent and higher," Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of parliament's national security committee, was quoted as saying by ISNA.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said live on television on Saturday that Iran must counter US sanctions by continuing to export its oil as well as boosting non-oil exports.

"America is trying to decrease our foreign reserves … So we have to increase our hard currency income and cut our currency expenditures," Mr Rouhani said.

"Last year, we had non-oil exports of $43 billion (Dh158 billion). We should increase production and raise our [non-oil] exports and resist America's plots against the sale of our oil."

Friday's US move, which Mr Rouhani made no direct reference to, was the third punitive action Washington has taken against Iran in as many weeks.

Last week, it said it would stop waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, in an attempt to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero. It also blacklisted Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Trump administration's efforts to impose political and economic isolation on Tehran began last year, when it unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal that world powers, including the US, negotiated with Iran in 2015