LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - Iran said it had started scaling back parts of its commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal on Wednesday and threatened to do more if world powers did not protect it from U.S. sanctions, a year after Washington pulled out of the pact.
President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would move on to resuming high level uranium enrichment if the remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — did not make good on promises to shield its oil and banking sectors in the next 60 days.
France’s defense minister said she wanted to keep the nuclear deal alive but warned Iran it could face more sanctions if it did not honor its part of the deal.
“Today nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this agreement,” Florence Parly told BFM TV.
Tensions have risen on the eve of the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
The Trump administration has restored U.S. sanctions and extended them, effectively ordering countries around the world to stop buying Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
In a speech broadcast on national television, Rouhani said he had written to the remaining signatories saying Tehran would start rolling back on its commitments by stopping selling enriched uranium and heavy water to other nations.
“If the five countries came to the negotiating table and we reached an agreement, and if they could protect our interests in the oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one (and will resume our commitments),” Rouhani said.
Rouhani warned of a firm response if Iran’s nuclear case is referred again to the U.N. Security Council, but said Tehran was ready for negotiations. “The Iranian people and the world should know that today is not the end of the JCPOA,” Rouhani said, using the acronym for the nuclear deal. “These are actions in line with the JCPOA.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: “After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue.”
Zarif said the remaining countries had a “narrowing window” to save the deal.
U.N. inspectors said Iran had continued to comply with the deal after the U.S. withdrawal.
Washington’s European allies, which opposed the U.S. pullout, have tried and failed to come up with ways to blunt the economic impact of the U.S. move while urging Iran to continue to comply.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; editing by Darren Schuettler and Jon Boyle)