Trump accuses Iran of secret nuclear enrichment, threatens to increase sanctions
'We have nothing to hide,' Iranian representative says after UN nuclear watchdog meeting
U.S. President Donald Trump accused Iran on Wednesday of secretly enriching uranium for a long time and warned that U.S. sanctions will be increased soon, as the UN's nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting on Tehran's breach of the nuclear deal.
Washington used the session of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors to accuse Iran of extortion after it inched past the deal's limit on enrichment levels while still offering to hold talks with Tehran.
Trump offered no evidence for his claims. UN inspectors have uncovered no covert enrichment by Iran since long before its 2015 nuclear agreement deal with world powers.
Iran says it is reacting to harsh U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Tehran since Trump pulled out of world powers' 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic last year, and all its steps were reversible if Washington returned to the deal.
"Iran has long been secretly 'enriching,' in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration. Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!" Trump said on Twitter.
In response to Trump, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said all the country's nuclear activities are monitored by the UN's atomic watchdog policing its nuclear deal.
"We have nothing to hide," Kazim Gharib Abadi told reporters.
Increase won't reverse uranium enrichment plan
In recent weeks, Iran has begun to openly breach limits on uranium enrichment set by the deal in order to pressure European signatories to salvage it.
senior Iranian security official said Wednesday that Iran will not reverse its decision to increase uranium enrichment beyond the limits set by the accord until it achieves its "full rights" under the deal.
Ali Shamkhani told a French envoy the decision to increase enrichment is an "unchangeable strategy," and criticized European countries for their "lack of will" in providing relief from U.S. sanctions, according to the official IRNA news agency.
But the U.S. urged the signatories to the nuclear deal not to give in to Iran's demands by providing new economic incentives to get it to pull back from its recent escalation of its atomic program.
Jackie Wolcott, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, told the gathering in Vienna that Iran's recent moves to enrich uranium beyond the deal's limits amounted to "nuclear extortion." She said Iran's "misbehaviour" should "not be rewarded."
France and other countries have called on Iran to go back to complying with the nuclear deal. Emmanuel Bonne, a French presidential envoy, is in Iran this week for talks aimed at resolving the crisis.
Iran warns Britain of 'repercussions' over ship seizure
Earlier, Iran's president says Britain will face "repercussions" over the seizure of an Iranian supertanker last week that authorities in Gibraltar suspect was breaching European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Hassan Rouhani was quoted by the official IRNA news agency Wednesday as calling the seizure "mean and wrong" during a cabinet meeting.
"You are an initiator of insecurity and you will understand its repercussions," he warned the British government, calling for the "full security" of international shipping lanes.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, denied the supertanker belonged to Iran, saying whoever owned the oil shipment and the vessel could pursue the case through legal avenues. Iran had earlier summoned the British ambassador over what it called the "illegal interception" of the ship.
Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is under Western sanctions linked to attacks on civilians during the war.
With files from The Associated Press