Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with ministers broadcast live on TV in Tehran, June 25, 2019. (Photo: VCG)
The United States will "never allow" Iran to develop nuclear weapons, the White House warned Monday, after Tehran said it had exceeded a limit on enriched uranium reserves set under a 2015 nuclear deal.
"Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime will continue until its leaders alter their course of action," said a statement from White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.
"The United States and its allies will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons," it said, calling it "a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level."
"We must restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran," the statement said.
The US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year, imposing punishing sanctions, and relations have sharply deteriorated since.
Tehran, which has sought to pressure the remaining parties to save the deal, on May 8 announced it would no longer respect the limit set on its enriched uranium and heavy water stockpiles.
It also threatened to go further and abandon more nuclear commitments unless the remaining partners helped it to circumvent sanctions, especially to sell its oil.
Washington has blamed Iran for a series of attacks on tanker ships and Tehran shot down an American surveillance drone last month, raising fears of an unintended slide toward conflict that both sides have said they want to avoid.
The UN's concern
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is concerned by reports that Iran may have exceeded limits on its low-grade enriched uranium stockpile, his spokesperson said Monday.
"The secretary-general is very much aware of the reports that the Islamic Republic of Iran may have surpassed its JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) limits on its low-enriched uranium stockpile," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres. "He is concerned by such reports."
Dujarric said if verified, such action by Iran "would not help preserve the plan (JCPoA) nor secure the tangible economic benefits for the Iranian people. It's essential that this issue, like other issues related to the implementation of the plan, be addressed through the mechanism established by the JCPoA."
According to the official IRNA news agency, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that Iran's low-grade enriched uranium stockpile has exceeded 300 kg.
Zarif, whose remarks were made in the central Iranian city of Natanz, home to parts of Iran's nuclear facilities, also said the European signatories of the JCPoA, had taken "insufficient" measures to ensure Iran's benefit from the accord after the US exit in May 2018.
The foreign minister later insisted in a tweet that Tehran had not violated the nuclear agreement.