President Rouhani set a 60-day deadline for new terms to the 2015 nuclear accord on the anniversary of US decision to withdraw from it. He said Iran will no longer respect limits it agreed on its enriched uranium and heavy water stocks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia. May 8, 2019
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia. May 8, 2019 (Reuters)

Iran's president said on Wednesday that it will begin keeping its excess uranium and heavy water from its nuclear programme, setting a 60-day deadline for new terms to its nuclear deal with world powers before it resumes higher uranium enrichment.

Hassan Rouhani's address to the nation came on the anniversary of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the nuclear accord. Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with the remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged that the situation was dire.

"This surgery is to save the [deal], not destroy it," Rouhani said.

The 2015 deal saw sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme. After the US withdrew from the accord it restored crippling sanctions on Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif insisted that the decision to partially withdraw from certain provisions did not violate the agreement, and asserted it was provoked by US actions toward Iran.

He also said Iran will uphold its obligations if European signatories to the deal uphold theirs.

TRT World's Arabella Munro has this report.

Terms of the nuclear pact

Under terms of the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. That's compared to the 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

The US last week ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, as well as it being able to sell its heavy water to Oman.

The US also has ended waivers for nations buying Iranian crude oil, a key source of revenue for Iran's government.

Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. 

Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90 percent. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20 percent, scientists say the time needed to reach 90 percent is halved. 

Iran has previously enriched to 20 percent.

Russia says Europe should fulfil obligations

Russia expects the 2015 Iran nuclear deal's European signatories to fulfil their obligations under the pact, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

"The US is to blame for the situation and it makes it difficult for both Iran to fulfil its obligations and ... for the general state of the nuclear non-proliferation regime," Lavrov said after meeting his Iranian counterpart in Moscow.

Israel won't let Iran get nuclear weaponry - Netanyahu

Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weaponry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, reiterating a long-held Israeli position after Tehran announced it was scaling back some of its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal.

"This morning, on my way here, I heard that Iran intends to pursue its nuclear programme," Netanyahu said in a speech marking Israel's Memorial Day. "We will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weaponry. We will continue to fight those who would kill us." 

Iran sends letters to world leaders

Earlier, Iran sent letters on Wednesday on its decision to the leaders of Britain, China, the European Union, France and Germany. All were signatories to the nuclear deal and continue to support it. A letter would also be sent to Russia.

"If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal," Rouhani said.

There was no immediate response from the US government or on Trump's twitter feed. 

However, the White House said on Sunday it would dispatch an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to the Persian Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Iran.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies