Iran rejected on Tuesday a White House accusation that Tehran was long violating the terms of its nuclear deal with world powers, after the Islamic Republic said it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under the accord.
“Seriously?” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a message on social network Twitter, after a statement by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham that said, “There is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.”
Tehran’s announcement drew a warning from President Donald Trump that Tehran was “playing with fire.”
The move marked Iran’s first major step beyond the terms of the pact since the United States pulled out of it more than a year ago. However, Zarif said the move was not a violation of the accord, arguing that Tehran was exercising its right to respond to the U.S. walkout.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that the country’s enriched uranium stockpile has now passed the 300-kg(661 lb) limit allowed under the deal.
The White House charge that Iran probably was in violation of the nuclear deal before and after it was reached in 2015 sharply contrasts with CIA Director Gina Haspel’s testimony in January to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying, “At the moment, technically, they are in compliance.”
He also said there was no international standard prohibiting Iran from enriching uranium, as asserted by Pompeo. “That is not the case. That is an American position,” he said.
The six U.N. Security Council resolutions that Pompeo asserted established that standard were superseded by Resolution 2231 enshrining the nuclear deal and allowing Iran to enrich uranium within the agreement’s restrictions.
It was the United States, he said, that first violated the deal when Trump withdrew from it while Iran still was in compliance and then re-imposed harsh U.S. sanctions that had been suspended by the nuclear agreement.
Iran’s breach, he said, does not affect the deal’s central target of extending to a year the time in which Iran could “breakout” and produce enough highly enriched uranium for a warhead.
The breach is a political move aimed at pressuring the European Union, China and Russia to compensate Iran for the serious damage to its economy from U.S. sanctions, he said.