Iran vows to 'vigorously' resume enrichment if US quits nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran's "probable" response to a US withdrawal would be to restart production of enriched uranium,  a key bomb-making ingredient.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran's "probable" response to a US withdrawal would be to restart production of enriched uranium, a key bomb-making ingredient.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Iran is ready to "vigorously" resume nuclear enrichment if the United States ditches the 2015 nuclear deal, and further "drastic measures" are being considered in response to a US exit, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned on Saturday (April 21).

Zarif told reporters in New York that Iran is not seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb, but that Tehran's "probable" response to a US withdrawal would be to restart production of enriched uranium - a key bomb-making ingredient.

"America never should have feared Iran producing a nuclear bomb, but we will pursue vigorously our nuclear enrichment," Zarif said.

US President Donald Trump has set a May 12 deadline for the Europeans to "fix" the agreement that provides for curbs to Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for relief from financial sanctions.

In a CBS interview to be broadcast Sunday on "Face the Nation", Zarif doubled down on a warning this month from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who vowed Washington would "regret" withdrawing from the nuclear deal, and that Iran would respond within a week if it did.

"If the decision comes from President Trump to officially withdraw from the deal, then Iran will take decisions that have been provided for under the JCPOA and outside JCPOA," Zarif said, referring to the 2015 accord.

"We have put a number of options for ourselves and those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities.

"And those are all envisioned within the deal. And those options are ready to be implemented and we would make the necessary decision when we see fit," added the foreign minister, who is in the United States to attend a UN meeting on sustaining peace.

 

The fate of the Iran deal will be a key issue during French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit to Washington beginning Monday, followed by talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington on Friday.

Zarif said the European leaders must press Trump to stick to the deal if the United States intends to maintain any credibility in the international community.

European leaders are hoping to persuade Trump to save the deal if they, in turn, agree to press Iran to enter into agreement on missile tests and moderating its regional influence in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

If the United States buries the deal, Iran is unlikely to stick to the agreement alongside the other signatories - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, said the foreign minister.

"Obviously, the rest of the world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one-sidedly implement a deal that has already been broken," Zarif said.