Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the removal of all limits on nuclear research and development – the third major step to scale down commitments to the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.
“I, as of now, announce the third step,” Rouhani said on state television late on Wednesday, just as the United States announced that it was imposing sanctions against an oil shipping network with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
“The atomic energy organisation [of Iran] is ordered to immediately start whatever is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place regarding research and development.”
Specifically, Iran would start to develop centrifuges to speed up its uranium enrichment, without overstepping, as yet, the limits set under the nuclear deal.
Iran in July abandoned two other nuclear commitments: to keep its stockpile of enriched uranium below 300kg and a 3.67 percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.
The announcement came hours after Rouhani had threatened to take the step if Europe failed to provide a solution by Friday.
Iran wants Europe to come up with a solution to sell its oil abroad after the US withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed devastating sanctions.
A short time after Rouhani’s statement, US officials announced new sanctions on Iran, this time aimed at a shipping network it said was run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to allegedly smuggle oil.
The US also offered a reward of up to $15m for anyone with information that could disrupt Iran’s already faltering economy, signalling that it is not letting up pressure on Tehran.