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European powers warn Iran against further breaches of nuclear deal

London, Berlin and Paris renewed their commitment to the JCPOA, calling it 'the best, and currently the only, way' to curb Iran's nuclear programme
Handout picture by Iran's defence ministry shows coffin of slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 30 November (AFP)

The United Kingdom, France and Germany issued a joint statement warning Iran against reducing its commitments to the nuclear deal and reiterating their own backing for the pact, in a sign of international support for the accord after US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The statement, released on Monday, said London, Berlin and Paris had "worked tirelessly" to preserve the agreement, calling it a "key achievement of multilateral diplomacy and the global non-proliferation architecture".

The countries said Iran's announcement that it was increasing uranium enrichment was "deeply worrying" and goes against the spirit of the deal.

The multilateral pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions against its economy. 

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the agreement, and since then, he has been piling sanctions on Iranian industries and individuals as part of his administration's maximum pressure campaign.

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Tehran, in response, has loosened its adherence to the JCPOA. After the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last month, the Iranian parliament passed a law to further increase uranium enrichment.

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The legislation, which had not yet been implemented, also called for expelling inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, if American sanctions against Tehran are not lifted by February.

Last month, Tehran also installed uranium-enriching centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility.

"The measures would be incompatible with the JCPOA and Iran’s wider nuclear commitments," the statement by the European trio said on Monday.

"If Iran is serious about preserving a space for diplomacy, it must not implement these steps. Such a move would jeopardise our shared efforts to preserve the JCPOA and risks compromising the important opportunity for a return to diplomacy with the incoming US Administration."

Biden, who will replace Trump on 20 January, has vowed to return to the deal. Last week, he said curbing Iran's nuclear programme by implementing the agreement will be a priority for his administration ahead of broader negotiations over other issues with Tehran.

The European countries lauded Biden's pledge to rejoin the deal, stressing that they are committed to it as well. "It remains the best, and currently the only, way to monitor and constrain Iran’s nuclear programme," the statement said.

The trio, known as E-3, said they will address Iranian violations of the pact within the framework of the JCPOA.

"We welcome the statements by President-elect Biden on the JCPOA and a diplomatic path to address wider concerns with Iran. This is in all our interests," the statement said.

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