Published: Fri, July 19, 2019

Iran says missile program 'non-negotiable'

Iran says missile program 'non-negotiable'

While the Europeans say they still support the agreement - which lifted sanctions in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme - in practice they have found it hard to get round the USA measures.

Iran's top diplomat provided insight into how the two nations might find a way out of the tense situation that Washington has driven them into.

Iranian clerical rulers have said that Tehran will further decrease its commitments if Europeans fail to fulfil their promises to guarantee Iran's interests under the deal.

Iran recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal, saying these moves can be reversed if the other parties to the agreement - Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union - come up with enough economic incentives to effectively offset the US sanctions.

"Every route the Americans have taken has led to defeat", Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, adding that Iran has stood firm against United States sanctions, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels at the end of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers, the bloc's current diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the steps taken by Iran so far - including enriching uranium above the 3.67 percent ceiling set by the 2015 nuclear deal - were reversible.

However, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an NBC News interview broadcasted on Monday, "Once those sanctions are lifted, then ... the room for negotiation is wide open".

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's ultimate authority, accused Britain, Germany and France of failing to uphold obligations under the deal to restore Iranian access to global trade, especially for Tehran's oil exports blocked by U.S. sanctions.

But the system is complicated, no transactions have been finalised yet and it can for now only be used for humanitarian goods - food and pharmaceuticals, for example - and not Iran's crucial oil sector.

"It sounds as if there are those in Europe who would possibly perhaps perhaps also no longer wake up unless Iranian nuclear missiles fall on European soil, after which, needless to claim, this would be too leisurely".

Unfair treatment "The Iranians felt that they are being unfairly condemned by the Europeans because they have abided by the deal throughout the previous year since the United States left the deal [in 2018] and put sanctions on Iran", Farmanfarmaian declared.

On Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran had changed its strategy from one of "patience to that of retaliation".

"It becomes a very, very toxic and risky situation. And we will not take a military attack lightly".

Hunt agreed, saying the deal "has to be taken in its entirety".

The level at which Iran is now refining uranium is still well below the 20 percent purity of enrichment Iran reached before the deal, and the 90 percent needed to yield bomb-grade nuclear fuel.

The Europeans are also trying to set up Instex, a barter-based trade conduit with Iran, but an equivalent Iranian mechanism has yet to start.

"For the first time, the Iranians have said they're prepared to negotiate on their missile program", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Cabinet meeting July 16, expressing hope that a deal could be struck with Tehran to keep it away from a nuclear weapon.

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