Iran inches away from nuclear deal amid U.S. sanctions

Miguel Arias Canete, Commissionner of the European Commission in charge of Climate Action and Energy and Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi give a joint press poi

The move also comes shortly after the U.S. labeled Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity, infuriating the hardline Islamic regime.

Under the 2015 accord, Iran restricted the capacity of its uranium enrichment program in exchange for a lifting of most global sanctions.

Meanwhile, the semi-official Iranian Students' News Agency quoted "knowledgeable sources" as saying that Iran on Wednesday will announce "reciprocal actions" to the U.S. withdrawal from the accord.

Iran has delivered letters to ambassadors outlining its partial withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, state television reported, without elaborating on what steps it plans to take. "There is a 60-day windows of opportunity for diplomacy", he said.

The Trump administration has restored USA sanctions and extended them, effectively ordering countries around the world to stop buying Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will deliver a major speech Wednesday and is expected to lay out "counteractions" against the USA - including the "resumption of some nuclear activities" as a direct response to President Trump's decision previous year to exit the Iranian nuclear agreement.

"The Iranian people and the world should know that today is not the end of the JCPOA", he said, using the acronym for the nuclear deal.

The US has deployed an aircraft carrier, the USS Lincoln, along with a bomber task force to the Middle East to counter a "credible threat by Iranian regime forces".

US officials have spoken in recent days of intelligence suggesting a military threat from Iran, although they have not given specific details.

Emphasising that "Iran will not withdraw" from the deal, Zarif said "this right has been set for Iran in the JCPOA; we are not operating outside of the JCPOA but are in fact working in its framework".

"Any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force".

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif said Iran would be partially withdrawing from the 2015 agreement.

The three European parties to the deal - Britain, France and Germany - tried to save the accord with a trade mechanism meant to bypass reimposed United States sanctions, but their attempt was dismissed by Iran´s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a "bitter joke".

In response to the USA ending the sanctions waivers, Iran repeated threats to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a critical passageway for the world's oil exports.

A US official said on Tuesday that the Trump administration's decision was based in part on intelligence indications that Iran had moved short-range ballistic missiles by boat off its shores.

He said: "This surgery is to save the deal, not destroy it".

Western governments had long feared Iran's atomic program could allow it to build nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration has repeatedly warned European multinationals they will face swingeing US Treasury fines if they trade with Iran and try to operate in the US market. But American sanctions have wreaked havoc on Iran's already-anemic economy, while promised help from European partners in the deal haven't alleviated the pain. American air bases spanning the region can scramble fighter jets and drones, lessening the necessity of an aircraft carrier as USA officials also worry about China and Russian Federation.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not at the current stage consider itself committed to observing restrictions regarding storing enriched uranium stocks and heavy water stocks", the council said. Iran will also stop selling enriched uranium within the 60 days. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20%, scientists say the time needed to reach 90% is halved. Under the 2015 deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. That's compared to the 10,000kg of higher-enriched uranium it once had. Iran has previously enriched to 20pc.

The weeks leading up to the anniversary of Trump's withdrawal from the agreement have seen a sharp tightening of USA sanctions and an increase in tensions on other fronts.

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