Iran announces partial withdrawal from nuclear deal

National Security Advisor John Bolton in April 2018. By Evan El-Amin  Shutterstock

President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech Wednesday that Iran would reduce its "commitments" to the deal, but would not fully withdraw.

Rouhani also threatened that in 60 days Iran would resume enrichment of uranium beyond the low purity - suitable for civilian nuclear power generation - allowed under the deal, unless the five other powers signed up to it found a way to protect Iran's oil and banking industries from United States sanctions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that the US has made impossible to continue".

"Iran has taken minimum retaliatory measures against USA maximum pressure", said Ali Vaez, the Iran director at the International Crisis Group, a think tank. That would likely be a deal-breaker for European countries that have tried to balance preserving the deal and maintaining good relations with Washington.

Tensions have risen on the eve of the anniversary of President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the agreement, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of global sanctions.

There was no immediate response from the United States.

"The remaining parties to the (deal) are given 60 days to implement their commitments, in particular in the fields of banking and oil", it added.

Across Europe there was concern over the latest developments threatening the nuclear deal.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hopes the nuclear deal can be saved after Iran's announcement. "We will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons".

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is in Moscow for talks, said he could guarantee the nuclear deal's survival if the agreement's European signatories fulfilled their obligations, something he accused them of not doing.

After meeting in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's support for the deal and blamed the USA for undermining it. "But if you want to ensure the safety of this region, the safety of your youth, to shield them from drugs and danger, then you must also pay", he said.

Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weaponry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, reiterating a long-held Israeli position after Tehran announced it was scaling back some of its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran on Wednesday said it will walk away from the worldwide deal governing its development of nuclear materials and potentially nuclear weapons if it does not receive new terms for a new agreement within 60 days.

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Monday that the deployment of U.S. military assets was to counter a "credible threat" from Iran.

State television is reporting that letters outlining the Islamic Republic's partial withdrawal from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have been delivered to ambassadors, according to the Associated Press.

The United Kingdom has called on Tehran not to take escalatory steps.

The other countries that signed the deal are Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

A statement from Iran's Supreme National Security Council published by the semi-official Fars News Agency said Iran would resume its obligations to the deal once its demands are met, CNN reported. "We will continue to fight those who would kill us".

Brent crude oil futures were at $70.29 per barrel, 41 cents, or 0.6 percent, above their last close.

The Trump administration, which abruptly announced in December that it was pulling out of Syria, still maintains 2,000 USA troops in the northern part of the war-torn country. That is an 11 percent rise from the same month past year.

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