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Rohani: Iran Prepared To Enrich Uranium At Higher Level Despite International Warnings

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani (file photo)

Iran will boost its uranium enrichment after July 7 to whatever levels it needs beyond the concentration limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal, President Hassan Rohani has said, defying calls by world powers to adhere to the agreement.

Rohani said on July 3 that Tehran was prepared to begin enriching uranium at a level beyond the 3.67 percent concentration allowed in the accord.

"We will put this commitment aside by whatever amount we feel like, by whatever amount is our necessity, our need. We will take this above 3.67," he said, according to state broadcaster IRIB.

In May, Rohani gave the remaining parties to the nuclear accord 60 days to protect Iran's economy from U.S. economic sanctions imposed after Washington withdrew from the pact a year earlier. That deadline falls on July 7.

Earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had stockpiled more low-enriched uranium than is permitted under the nuclear agreement, a move that prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to warn Iran was "playing with fire."

The European parties to the agreement -- Germany, Britain, and France -- urged Tehran to "refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal."

"We have been consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran," the three country's foreign ministers and the EU foreign-policy chief said in a joint statement.

On July 3, a French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Iran “will gain nothing” by leaving the accord, adding that “putting it into question will only increase the already heightened tensions in the region."

China and Russia are the other co-signatories.

Iranian officials have complained that the remaining parties to the deal failed to mitigate the effects of the U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil and banking industries.

European countries have warned that any violation of the agreement would bring consequences, but did not say what they might be.

Rohani on July 3 said that if the other signatories did not protect trade with Iran promised under the deal, Iran would also start to revive its heavy-water research reactor at Arak, which was decommissioned under the nuclear accord.

Enriched uranium is used to make reactor fuel, but can also potentially be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Prior to the accord, Iran had enriched uranium to as high as 20 percent, putting weapons-grade levels within reach.

If it is not redesigned, the Arak reactor will be able produce spent fuel containing plutonium, which could be used for a nuclear bomb.

The 2015 pact aimed at preventing Iran from developing such weapons. Iran claims its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes.

Rohani's anouncement came as Iran on July 3 also marked the anniversary of the U.S. Navy shooting down an Iranian passenger jet in 1988, a mistake that killed 290 people.

Relatives of those killed in the 1988 downing of Iran Air Flight 655 by the U.S. Navy marked the day by visiting the site in the Strait of Hormuz where debris from the plane fell.

Iranian TV showed footage of the mourners as armed boats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrolled around them.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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