Iran threatens to quit global nuclear pact if Europeans turn to Security Council

Iran threatened Monday to withdraw from the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) if a dispute over its atomic program goes before the UN Security Council.

Britain, France and Germany launched a process last week charging Iran with failing to observe the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal, a move that could eventually see the Security Council reimpose international sanctions on the country.

Iran has accused the three EU member states of inaction over sanctions the United States reimposed on it after unilaterally withdrawing from the accord in 2018.

The European move “has no legal basis” and if they take further measures “Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT will be considered,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the Iranian parliament’s website.

The 2015 deal reached with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. But the deal faced criticism from Israel, US Republicans and others over its 15-year phaseout period, and for leaving Tehran’s ballistic missile program and much of its nuclear infrastructures intact.

Since the US pullout, Iran has progressively rolled back its commitments to the accord — called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — in retaliation.

It has hit out at the three European nations that remain party to the JCPOA for failing to live up to their promises to ease the impact of US sanctions on its oil-based economy.

“If the Europeans return to the commitments, Iran will also stop reducing its commitments, but if the Europeans continue as they have been… we have different options,” Zarif said Monday.

The foreign minister said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had warned former EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini about some of those consequences in three letters sent in 2018. Rouhani explicitly raised the possibility of withdrawing from the global nonproliferation treaty in a letter sent in May of that year, around the time of the US withdrawal from the 2015 accord.

“It was stated in the president’s letter that if this issue is referred to the Security Council, Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT will be discussed, but before that we can consider other (options),” Zarif said.

European officials have made it clear that the decision to trigger the 2015 deal’s dispute resolution mechanism was made in a bid to bring Iran back into compliance and save the accord.

But Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday warned more measures could be taken in retaliation for the European move.

“If these talks continue, Iran is formulating a final and even more effective” measure regarding the nuclear deal, spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a news conference in Tehran.

Asked by reporters to elaborate, Mousavi said it would be a “serious” measure, but he gave no further details.

“Different options are on the table for Iran that will be announced if a consensus is reached” by its leaders, he said.

Iran has said the steps it has taken to roll back the nuclear deal can be reversed if its interests are realized.

The NPT, which went into effect in 1970, has been signed by 190 states that committed not to pursue nuclear weapons. Iran was first found to be in violation of the treaty in a 2003 report by the UN’s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Israel is among five states to never have signed the treaty, maintaining what it has called a policy of nuclear “ambiguity.” Foreign reports have claimed over the years that the Jewish state possesses deliverable nuclear weapons.

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