Moving further away from the 2015 nuclear agreement, Tehran said it had stopped honoring the deal’s limits on research and development, a potentially important breach of the accord, The New York Times reported.
The step was Iran’s third retaliatory suspension of compliance with a provision of the accord since President Donald Trump renounced it last year and reimposed severe sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, conveyed the country’s latest step in a letter to Federica Mogherini, the top foreign policy official of the European Union, who has been trying to save the nuclear deal from unraveling.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying Zarif’s letter informed Mogherini that Iran had ceased all its commitments “in the field of nuclear research and development as of today (Thursday).”
The letter described the step as a response to the American sanctions and to what the Iranians called the inability of Britain, France and Germany, all parties to the accord, to fulfill their commitments under the agreement to provide Iran with economic relief.
No further details were provided, but a more substantive announcement was expected on Friday or Saturday from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization in Tehran.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had earlier signaled that the country’s atomic energy agency had been “ordered to immediately start what is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place,” according to Iranian news accounts. But Zarif’s letter was the first official word that such a step had been carried out.
The nuclear agreement ended many economic sanctions on Iran in return for its verifiable pledge to use nuclear power peacefully. In the accord’s preamble, Iran promised to never seek or obtain nuclear weapons, but some of the agreement’s provisions expire in coming years.
Trump pulled the United States out of the accord in May 2018 and demanded stronger restraints on Iran, arguing that the agreement merely delayed when the Iranians could produce a nuclear weapon, the Times added.
Trump’s critics, including America’s European allies, argued that the nuclear accord was working and that the American sanctions would possibly lead to a military confrontation with Iran.