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West Concerned Over Iran Boosting Enrichment; 'Crossing Israel's Red Line'

Iranian officials announcing decision for higher-grade uranium enrichment in a press conference in Tehran. July 7, 2019

The United States said Iran will face more sanctions for enhancing its nuclear program beyond the limits of a 2015 landmark deal that Washington no longer supports.

“Iran’s latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet on July 7.

“Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment for Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world,”

Pompeo could give more details about a possible U.S. response to Iran’s announcement during the press conference he will hold at the State Department on July 8.

The EU has expressed "serious concern" over Iran's new step in suspending its commitment to the nuclear deal with the West on Sunday July 7, while Israel has called Iran's new measures "very very dangerous" and accused Tehran of moving toward producing nuclear bombs.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Israeli politicians say "Iran has crossed Israel's red line," and the world might be facing the probability of a war with Iran.

Iran announced Sunday that it will no longer respect the limitations on uranium enrichment grade and the extent of stockpiling enriched uranium as set by the 2015 deal also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

A spokesman for President Hassan Rouhani administration, Ali Rabiei, said that Iran will leave behind the 3.67 percent enrichment level and will enrich higher grade uranium.

Meanwhile, Tehran will no longer stick to the 300 ton limit of stockpiling enriched uranium, as set by the JCPOA.

Within hours after the announcement, a spokesperson for EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said "EU is seriously concerned about Iran's new announcement," adding, "We are consulting with other signatories to the JCPOA about our next steps, including holding a meeting of the JCPOA joint commission."

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Iran's new decision and added that Tehran is in violation of the JCPOA.

Macron had held talks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over the phone on Saturday, and tried to dissuade him from going ahead with further reduction of Iran's commitments to the nuclear deal.

According to Macron's office, the two sides had agreed to preserve the JCPOA at least until July 15 in order to find a way to start talks with Iran. During the conversation, Rouhani called for "lifting all sanctions against Iran as a starting point for a new move between Iran and the P5+1"

The Group includes the United States, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany, so Rouhani's statement indicates that Iran will be prepared to hold negotiations with America if Washington lifts all the sanctions it has imposed on Tehran after it left the JCPOA in 2018.

The German Foreign Ministry has also expressed "grave concern" over Iran's new move, but said that Germany will wait for more information from the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA, where the body's board of governors are to meet on Wednesday to discuss Iran's commitment to the JCPOA.

The German Foreign Ministry further called on Iran to stop all actions inconsistent with its obligations under the JCPOA. Berlin also said that it is consulting with other partners to the deal to assess the level of fulfilment of Iran's commitments.

An IAEA spokesman said on Sunday that the body will present a new report about Iran's compliance with the JCPOA as soon as it can confirm that Tehran has increased current enrichment level.

Meanwhile, A spokesman for the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said on Sunday that "The UK will remain fully committed to the JCPOA," However, "Iran should immediately stop all of its actions that are in violation of its commitments to the nuclear deal."

Israel's Reaction

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu characterized Iran's new decision on Sunday as "very very dangerous," and urged world powers to "impose paralyzing sanction" on Iran, reported Israel's Y-Net TV.

Criticizing reports that described Iran's increased enrichment level as "a small step," Netanyahu said this was a big mistake, reminding that the world had dismissed Hitler's first move to invade other countries at the beginning of World War II "a small step."

Meanwhile, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has said that Iran is on its way to producing nuclear bombs. He said: "Iran is marching toward a nuclear bomb," The Jerusalem Post quoted Steinitz as having told the Y-Net TV.

He added: "Iran is blackmailing Israel, the United States and the rest of the world."

Asked if Israelis should be worried about a war breaking out, Steinitz said: "The answer is yes."

In another Development U.S. Republican Senator Linsey Graham who is visiting Israel, has told CBS news that by increasing its allowed enrichment level, "Iran has crossed Israel's red line" and the world is now facing the probability of a war with Iran.