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Iran To Exceed Enriched Uranium Stockpile, Pressuring Europe For Trade

Iranian President Hassan Rohani and head of Iran's nuclear technology organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (2-R) visit a nuclear facility during the National Nuclear Technology Day in Tehran, April 9, 2019

The spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency says the country will exceed the limit for its uranium stockpiles set out in the 2015 nuclear accord within the next 10 days.

Speaking at a news conference broadcast live on Iranian state television on June 17, Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi added that Tehran will increase enrichment levels of its uranium holdings "based on the country's needs."

The announcement follows comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on June 15 that his country will continue scaling back on compliance of the nuclear deal unless other signatories show "positive" signals about the agreement.

"We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit," Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on state TV. "There is still time ... if European countries act."

Iran is particularly unhappy about the reluctance or inability of European powers to oppose U.S. economic sanctions and help Iran maintain trade with the continent. In January, UK, France and Germany announced the establishment of a special trade mechanism meant to facilitate a barter-type trade system with Iran, circumventing U.S. sanctions, but the it has so far failed to be implemented.

In May, Iran stopped complying with some commitments in response to President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with six world powers, saying the terms were not tough enough and that the country had not lived up to the spirit of the pact by supporting extremist violence in the region -- something Iran has denied.

Then, on May 1 Washington toughened its sanctions on Iran's oil exports, practically preventing any significant oil sales, which generate 40 percent of Iranian state's income. Iran's defiant gesture of not adhering to the nuclear deal followed the toughening sanctions.

"Obviously, Iran cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally," Rouhani told a summit of Asian leaders meeting in Dushanbe on June 15.

Rouhani said Tehran was "continuing to adhere" to some commitments under the deal. But he said the decision to scale back on additional obligations was made because of what he called "confrontation" by the United States, Trump's "withdrawal from this deal," and the imposition of what he called "illegal unfounded sanctions supported by other parties."

Trump has reimposed sanctions against Tehran that had been eased under the nuclear deal, and has especially targeted Iran's banking and all-important energy sector.

Tensions between the two countries have risen in recent weeks after the United States accused Iran of involvement attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

In a show of strength, Washington has sent additional forces to the region. Iran has denied being behind the attacks.