WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump lashed back at Iran after it said it would soon exceed maximum allowed uranium-enrichment levels, telling Tehran that such threats can “come back to bite you.”
“Be careful with the threats, Iran,” he wrote in a tweet on July 3.
“They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before!” he added.
Trump’s tweet came hours after Iranian President Hassan Rohani said his country will boost its uranium enrichment after July 7 beyond the 3.67 percent concentration limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal, defying calls by world powers to adhere to the agreement.
"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.
A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on July 4 said that Iran is “determined to go ahead with its plan to further scale back its nuclear commitments," according to state television.
"By exiting the nuclear deal, Trump has wounded the path of diplomacy...The best antidote to all threats is active resistance," Keyvan Khosravi said.
Meanwhile, state news agency IRNA quoted Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi as saying Tehran and Washington could hold talks only if the United States ended its sanctions and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave his approval.
Khamenei has rejected any talks with the United States.
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 Trump to warn Iran that it 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's 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.
Trump in May 2018 pulled out of the landmark nuclear accord and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Trump said the terms of the deal were not strict enough to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and that Iran was continuing to support extremist violence in the region – a charge it denies.
Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington, said after Rohani's announcement that the Iranian move was "concerning" but that Tehran was "seeking leverage, not dashing for a bomb."
She said it is "critical" that Trump and the other signatories "do not overreact" to the announcement.
"It would still take around 12 months for Iran to produce enough nuclear material for a weapon if they decided to go down that road. So there is time to bring Iran back into compliance," she wrote on Twitter.
Rohani kept the door open to negotiations, saying he would again reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium if the five countries still in the pact honored their deal pledges.
Iran insisted it is not violating the deal, citing terms allowing one side to temporarily abandon some commitments if it deems the other side was not respecting its part of the accord.