Iran announced yesterday it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, drawing a warning from US President Donald Trump that Tehran was "playing with fire".
On Tuesday, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave short shrift to the USA claim that Tehran had been breaching the 2015 nuclear deal for a long time. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran's steps to decrease its commitments to the nuclear deal were "reversible".
Zarif is one of the chief architects of the deal. They finally got it up and running last week, only to have Zarif say it wasn't enough. "I don't think either side wants war, but both sides do want leverage".
From an English-language teacher hoping for peace to an appliance salesman who applauded President Donald Trump as a "successful businessman", all said they suffered from the economic hardships sparked by re-imposed and newly created American sanctions.
It is not clear whether Iran would have ended up with a larger stockpile in any case, given the difficulty in exporting excess enriched uranium and heavy water as a result of the U.S. sanctions regime.
Emmanuel Macron said in a statement Tuesday that he "took note with concern" of Iran's announcement that it has surpassed the limit of 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of low-enriched uranium laid out in the accord.
Foreign minister Zarif reacted with exasperation to a White House accusation that Tehran had long violated the terms of the deal. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, but the West fears it could allow Iran to build a bomb.
U.S. imperialism has implemented sanctions with the stated aim of reducing Iranian oil exports to zero by targeting any country importing Iranian crude and any financial institutions facilitating such transactions with secondary sanctions and exclusion from USA markets.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iran's nuclear programme under the deal, confirmed in Vienna that Tehran had breached the limit.
If the USA targets Iran's uranium enrichment operations, experts say, it is likely to take aim again at the Natanz site.
"We call on all parties to view this from a long-term and overall perspective, exercise restraint and uphold the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal) together so that there won't be further escalation in the tense situation", Geng said.
Iran fired back at claims by the White House that the regime has been violating the 2015 nuclear accord for years with a terse one-word response, tweeting "seriously?"
Iran also has threatened for weeks to push its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 if Europe doesn't put forth a new deal to protect Tehran from US sanctions.
The initiative marked Tehran's first major shift from the provisions of the pact since the United States pulled out of it more than a year ago.
The IAEA "verified on July 1 that Iran's total enriched uranium stockpile exceeded 300 kilogrammes", a spokesperson said.
"Our message about INSTEX to the Europeans has been sent, and we are hopeful that important and operational steps are taken by them", Mousavi said.
After months of delay, European powers meeting with Iranian officials in Vienna last Friday announced the start of their so-called INSTEX scheme, a mechanism to facilitate EU-Iran trade in humanitarian goods not under United States sanctions. "INSTEX is just the beginning of (their) commitments, which has not been fully implemented yet", he added.