TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday Iran’s decision to end its compliance with some measures within the nuclear deal were the "minimum” that the Islamic Republic could do in response to the U.S. violating the landmark accord.
Rouhani said "the other side in the agreement” had not only failed to fulfill its obligations but also reduced its commitment under the deal, questioning the spirit and foundation of the accord.
Iran said this week it plans to begin enriching more uranium for the stockpile on June 27.
The nuclear deal was brokered in 2015 between Iran and a coalition led by the United States under former President Barack Obama. Last year, President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the accord and has since taken increasingly aggressive actions to punish Iran.
Rouhani criticized European leaders Wednesday, saying they haven't fully committed to a deal without the United States and have refused to engage in normal trade, for fear of the U.S. sanctions.
The president also said the U.S. sanctions are hurting third-world nations that used to trade with Iran. "This is not sanctioning. This is a crime against humanity and economic terrorism."
The spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization the country would not give European powers more time beyond July 8 to save its nuclear deal by shielding it from U.S. sanctions.
Behrouz Kamalvandi said Tehran was ready to go through with a threat to enrich uranium to a higher level if Europe did not step in.
Iran said last month it would start enriching uranium at a higher level unless other European signatories to the deal protected its economy from the U.S. sanctions within 60 days.
"Iran’s two-month deadline to remaining signatories of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) cannot be extended, and the second phase will be implemented exactly as planned,” Kamalvandi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
"If our demands are not met, we will take new measures after 60 days, calculated from May 8,” Rouhani also said in a cabinet meeting.
"But if they return to their commitments, we will cancel all measures taken in the first 60 days or possibly the second 60 days, and there won’t be any problem.”
Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said Europe was not helping to counteract U.S. sanctions on its energy sector by buying its oil.
The nuclear accord requires Iran to curb its uranium enrichment capacity, capping Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 percent or its equivalent for 15 years.
A series of more intrusive UN inspections under the deal have verified that Iran has been meeting its commitments. Iran has always said its nuclear program is for electricity generation and medical purposes only.
Britain, France and Germany have been planning a new push to keep Iran in the 2015 deal, but European officials have acknowledged they may be nearing the end of the diplomatic road.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday blamed the U.S. policy of maximum pressure against Iran for rising tensions in the Middle East.
After a cabinet meeting in Paris, Le Drian said that Iran’s announcement on Monday to exceed its uranium stockpile limit in the next 10 days was very worrying and not in Tehran’s interest, but he pointed the finger at the United States.
"We … consider the U.S.’ decision to break with the accord is not good and that its maximum pressure campaign is contributing to tensions,” Le Drian told reporters.
"So we want to unify our efforts so that there is a de-escalation process that starts,” he added, but said there remained "only a little time” and expressed hope that "all the actors show more calm” to defuse tensions.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who attended the French cabinet meeting, described the ongoing tensions as "a serious situation” and warned that the risk of war in the Persian Gulf "has not been averted.”
"We need to do everything so that it doesn’t come to this. That’s why we are talking to all sides. I was in Iran and we are also talking with the Americans. We need to de-escalate through dialogue. It is a time of ‘diplomacy first’ and that’s what we are committed to,” Maas said.
Diplomats told Reuters on Tuesday that Britain, France and Germany, the three European signatories to the JCPOA, plan a new push to keep Iran in the nuclear deal, but warned about a possible stalemate in the diplomatic road that started 15 years ago and culminated in the conclusion of the JCPOA.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have risen in recent weeks. Rouhani on Wednesday rejected U.S. accusations that Iran had been behind several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman since last month.
"Our close ties to Asia, Japan and China prompted some to attack two oil tankers on the very day that the Japanese premier (Shinzo Abe) was our guest," Rouhani said.