Iran‘s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned that the country would leave the international treaty that prevents that spread of atomic weapons if its alleged violations of the nuclear deal were brought before the United Nations Security Council.
Mr Zarif, cited by the official Islamic Republic News Agency, said the warning to leave the five decades old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was in response to the triggering of a dispute mechanism in the 2015 deal by the UK, France and Germany over Tehran’s escalating violations of the agreement.
Mr Zarif has previously warned Iran could leave the treaty, which limits nations’ nuclear activities in exchange for access to atomic technology, but the latest threat comes at a time of heightened tensions between the west and Tehran.
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Iran began reducing its commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) after Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and imposed harsh sanctions on the country, badly crippling its economy. It has lifted restrictions on nuclear fuel production and stockpiling and has begun to restart dormant facilities.
Iran last week said a decision to remove all limits on its nuclear fuel enrichment efforts would be the fifth and final step in its response to what it calls European compliance with US sanctions. But Mr Zarif dangled the prospect that Iran could leave the non-proliferation treaty altogether, which would give it a path towards obtaining nuclear weapons.
Iran says its nuclear programme has been meant only for peaceful civilian purposes. Western intelligence officials have concluded that Iran was pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programme until about 2003, when its arch-nemesis Saddam Hussein was toppled in the US invasion of Iraq.
Since then, most independent non-proliferation specialists have concluded that Iran had been pursuing a policy of nuclear ambiguity, pursuing the various components to have a weapons programme without violating the NPT.
The nuclear deal was meant to place stricter limits on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for economic incentives. But Mr Trump’s abrogation of the agreement and European companies’ abidance of American restrictions have robbed it of incentives.
Mr Trump and the small clique of Washington hawks advising him on Iran say that the nuclear deal gave Iran too much in return for limits on its nuclear programme which would expire by 2030.
European nations say they want to preserve the deal which they consider a landmark diplomatic agreement. They say the triggered the dispute mechanism, which could bring Iran’s nuclear programme before the Security Council for renewed sanctions, to keep Iran from further expanding its nuclear activities.
German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters in London last week the Trump administration threatened to impose 25 per cent tariffs on EU car imports if European nations party to the nuclear deal did not trigger the dispute mechanism.