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Iran threatens to go beyond pre-deal enrichment if nuclear agreement fails

If US withdrawal leads to collapse of nuclear deal, Tehran will reach more advanced level of uranium enrichment, official says
Trump says 'it's possible' that he would meet Iran's Rouhani later this month (Reuters)

Iran will begin uranium enrichment beyond previous levels if the remaining parties fail to uphold the 2015 nuclear deal, its Atomic Energy Organisation told local media on Wednesday.

"We will not return to previous levels if our counterparts leave the JCPOA (nuclear deal), but will instead reach even more advanced levels," the organisation's spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, quoted by state broadcaster IRIB.

"We are at a considerably more advanced status than when we signed the deal. The country is moving ahead in nuclear activities at a favourable pace," he added.

Iran has repeatedly said it will resume high-level uranium enrichment if the 2015 agreement, which drastically limits its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief, falls apart.

Following the withdrawal of the United States in May, the other parties - Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the EU - have vowed to provide Iran with enough economic benefits to keep the agreement alive.

But Tehran is increasingly sceptical that those countries can counter the effects of renewed US sanctions, which have already battered Iran's economy.

Last week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran should be ready to "set aside" the agreement if it is no longer in the country's national interests.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly stated that Iran is sticking to its commitments.

The administration of US President Donald Trump claims the deal did not prevent Iran from eventually working towards a nuclear weapon - which Tehran has denied it is seeking.

Trump said on Wednesday he remained open to the possibility of talks between Washington and Tehran, but added that Iran was in turmoil and struggling to survive.

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"Iran is in turmoil right now. They're in total turmoil," Trump told reporters before a meeting with Kuwait's emir, without offering any evidence.

"Now they are just worrying about their own survival as a country," he said. "We'll see what happens with Iran. Whether they want to talk or not, that's up to them, not up to me. I will always be available but it doesn't matter one way or the other."

Trump said in July that he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without any preconditions to discuss how to improve relations.

Iran suggested that Washington must return to the nuclear deal as a prerequisite for future negotiations.

When asked whether he would be willing to meet Rouhani at the UN General Assembly later this month, Trump, who will chair a Security Council meeting at the United Nations on Iran this month, said: "It's possible. Anything's possible. Anything's possible. We'll see."