Iran says Europeans yielded to Trump bullying over nuclear pact

Accusation follows reports the US threatened France, Britain and Germany with auto tariffs

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Iran's foreign minister on Thursday accused France, Germany and Britain of succumbing to US pressure in triggering a dispute mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal that could lead to renewed United Nations sanctions on Tehran.

The three countries are signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed between Tehran and world powers to curb Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and imposed stringent sanctions on Iran under a "maximum pressure" campaign to force Iran to sign a newmore wide-ranging agreement.

"Appeasement confirmed. E3 sold out remnants of #JCPOA to avoid new Trump tariffs. It won't work my friends. You only whet his appetite. Remember your high school bully?" Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Mr Zarif was referring to a report in The Washington Post that the Trump administration had threatened to impose a 25 per cent tariff on European automobile imports if Britain, France and Germany did not formally accuse Iran of breaking the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Post quoted officials in the three countries as saying they had planned to initiate the dispute mechanism but Mr Trump's threat nearly caused them to backtrack, out of concern that they could be viewed as stooges of Washington if word of the threat leaked.

Mr Zarif also accused the US of bullying Europe in remarks at the Raisina Dialogue on Wednesday, a day after Britain, France and Germany announced that they would trigger the dispute resolution mechanism over Iran's breaches of the nuclear pact since last year.

The move gives Iran 60 days to return to full compliance with limits imposed on its nuclear enrichment and stockpiles, or face a re-imposition of sanctions lifted after the JCPOA.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that the country had now exceeded the levels of uranium enrichment before the nuclear agreement.

"We are enriching more uranium before the deal was reached ... Pressure has increased on Iran but we continue to progress," Mr Rouhani said in a televised speech.

In a joint statement initiating the dispute mechanism on Tuesday, Britain, France and Germany said they did so "in good faith, with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPOA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward through constructive diplomatic dialogue".
They also distanced themselves from Mr Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign and said they opposed the US withdrawal from the agreement in 2018. "Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance," they said.

A US official admitted to the Washington Post that the European parties were already moving toward triggering the dispute resolution before the Trump administration issued its threat last week.
"The consensus among the Europeans about the need to hold Tehran accountable took form weeks ago and was driven by Iran's escalatory behaviour and violations of the nuclear deal," the official said.