An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, January 15, 2016. (Photo: CGTN)
The time is short for Europe to save the international nuclear deal with Tehran after Washington's withdrawal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday, according to Fars news agency.
Iran said on Monday it would surpass the uranium stockpile limit set under the nuclear deal agreed with world powers starting June 27.
"Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days, we will pass this limit," Iran's atomic energy organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at a press conference broadcast live.
The spokesman added European nations still had time to save a landmark nuclear deal.
In a sign of concern at Iran's announcement, Germany urged Tehran to meet all its obligations under the 2015 accord. Britain said if Iran breached limits agreed under the deal then London would look at "all options."
Close U.S. ally Israel, Iran's arch foe, urged world powers to step up sanctions against Tehran swiftly should it exceed the enriched uranium limit.
U.S.-Iran tensions are growing following accusations by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration that Tehran last Thursday attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital oil shipping route. Iran denies having any role.
Iran's Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, on Monday denied Tehran was behind the attacks and said if the Islamic Republic decided to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane it would do so publicly.
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on state TV that "We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit."
Tehran said in May it would reduce compliance with the nuclear pact it agreed with world powers in 2015, in protest at the United States’ decision to unilaterally pull out of the agreement and reimpose sanctions last year.
The deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.
The accord requires Iran to curb its uranium enrichment capacity, capping Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 percent or its equivalent for 15 years.
A series of more intrusive UN inspections under the deal have verified that Iran has been meeting its commitments.
Urging European signatories to speed up their efforts to salvage the accord, President Hassan Rouhani said its collapse would not be in the interests of the region or the world.
"It's a crucial moment, and France can still work with other signatories of the deal and play an historic role to save the deal in this very short time," Rouhani was quoted as saying during a meeting with France's new ambassador in Iran.