US says Iran’s moves are ‘nuclear extortion’


The Latest on the tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

The United States is urging world powers party to the nuclear deal with Iran not to give in to Iran’s demands by providing new economic incentives to get it to backstep its recent escalation of its atomic program.

Jackie Wolcott, the U.S. ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, told a gathering of the International Atomic Energy Agency Wednesday that Iran’s recent moves to enrich uranium beyond the deal’s limits amounted to “nuclear extortion.”

She says Iran’s “misbehavior” should “not be rewarded.”

The U.S. pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal unilaterally last year and re-imposed crippling sanctions.

The deal promised Iran sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear program.

Wolcott reiterated that Washington believes the deal was ineffective, but remains “open to negotiation without preconditions.”


4:40 p.m.

Diplomats are gathering in Vienna for a special meeting of the board of the U.N. atomic watchdog requested by the United States to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. and Iranian envoys to the International Atomic Energy Agency are expected to address the group Wednesday.

The U.S. called for the meeting after Iran announced last week that it had exceeded the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Since then, it also announced it has started enriching uranium past the 3.67% purity allowed, to 4.5%. The IAEA has verified both developments.

Iran says it is justified in breaching the limits because the U.S. withdrew from the agreement last year and imposed sweeping sanctions. The other parties to the deal — Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and the European Union — have called for Iran to stick to its commitments.


2:45 p.m.

Iran says it will not reverse its decision to increase uranium enrichment beyond the limits set by the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers until it achieves its “full rights” under the deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned last year.

The official IRNA news agency quotes Ali Shamkhani, a senior security official, as telling a French envoy Wednesday that the decision to increase enrichment is an “unchangeable strategy.” Shamkhani goes on to criticize European countries for their “lack of will” in providing relief from U.S. sanctions.

France and other countries have called on Iran to go back to complying with the nuclear deal.


1 p.m.

Iran’s president says Britain will face “repercussions” over the seizure of Iranian supertanker.

Hassan Rouhani was quoted by the official IRNA news agency Wednesday as calling the seizure “mean and wrong” during a Cabinet meeting. He warns London: “You are an initiator of insecurity and you will understand its repercussions,” without elaborating.

Last week, authorities in Gibraltar intercepted an Iranian supertanker that was believed to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Tehran’s crude oil to war-ravaged Syria.

The tanker’s detention comes at a particularly sensitive time as tensions between the U.S. and Iran grow over the unraveling of a 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from last year.

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