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Iran To Exceed Uranium Enrichment Limits. Should U.K. Leave Nuclear Deal?


What do Europeans do now that Iran has begun going beyond the limits of a nuclear deal, or says that it will? Iran has been enriching uranium, an activity that is allowed but sharply limited under that agreement from 2015. Today is the day when Iran said it would go beyond the amount of enriched uranium it's allowed to have on hand. Remember. This is a deal the United States withdrew from but that other world powers and Iran would like to keep. The U.K. is still in the deal, and we've called the U.K. ambassador to the United Nations, Karen Pierce, who's on the line from New York.

Ambassador, good morning.

KAREN PIERCE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Do you regard Iran as going out of compliance with the deal today?

PIERCE: I haven't seen anything from New York that suggests that that has actually happened. But of course, that's what Iran said it would do today, 27 June. But the next step, in any case, would be for the International Atomic Energy Authority to confirm what, if anything, Iran has actually done.

INSKEEP: Well, let's suppose they go beyond that limit. Then we've got to figure out what to think of it. It seems obvious that means they're out of compliance with the deal. They're not following the deal. But Iran's United Nations ambassador told us on this program the other day, wait a minute. Actually, there's a provision that allows us to start going out of compliance exceeding the limits in this way if other signatories to the deal are not keeping up their end of the bargain. And you're not. Do you agree that Europe is not keeping its end of the bargain here to provide economic benefit to Iran?

PIERCE: No, Europe is trying very hard to stand up its end of the deal. I won't disguise from you, it's difficult because of the U.N. sanctions. And we said in the Security Council yesterday that we regretted the fact that the deal couldn't be implemented in full. But the Europeans have set up a special purpose vehicle to get humanitarian and other supplies to Iran. And we believe very firmly Iran should stay in the deal. There's still enough in the deal, and it's important for global nonproliferation, as well, that the deal is upheld and that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon.

INSKEEP: Would you explain this special purpose vehicle, Ambassador? You've got some kind of bank or institution that's going to try to sell stuff to Iran without running afoul of U.S. sanctions? Is that right?

PIERCE: It's more a vehicle that money goes into and goods can be supplied under it. It's not intended to contravene U.S. sanctions. On the contrary, it's intended to provide a line for vital supplies to Iran. But I just want, if I may, Steve, to go back to this point about compliance.


PIERCE: The Iranians often make the argument that because X has done something, they're entitled to also not do something that they ought to do under the deal. And we don't accept that argument. But the deal itself did envisage a circumstance in which Iran might fall out of compliance. And there are mechanisms in the deal itself whereby the participants get together and try to figure out a way to bring Iran back into compliance. So it's not the end of the story even if Iran has breached. But obviously, that would be a very worrying development.

INSKEEP: So you're saying that there are provisions that would be like mediation or going to court, and you could press Iran to go back within compliance if, in fact, they go out today. Is that right?

PIERCE: There's similar provisions to that. They're not actually going to court.


PIERCE: It's more about the deal's participants working this out themselves. But as I say, it was certainly envisaged that one day, we might face this situation. And there are dispute resolution mechanisms within the deal itself that would enable us to get together, discuss with Iran, try to work out how to bring her back into compliance.

INSKEEP: As you know very well, Ambassador, the United States keeps adding more sanctions on Iran and tightening oil and other sanctions on Iran. And their goal - well, we could argue about the goal, but it's certainly to undermine this deal in every way possible. Do you think this deal is still survivable, that it's sustainable?

PIERCE: Well, I won't disguise from you the fact that it is tricky to keep the deal going in the circumstances you describe. Nevertheless, we remain committed to it. The other participants, who include Russia, China, France and Germany, as well as Iran, remain committed to it. It's vital for European but also regional security. And it's a really important commitment to help global nonproliferation. So we want to do everything we can to keep the deal intact.

That's not to say we don't agree with the American administration about Iran's behavior in the region, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen and also in the Gulf. But for Europeans, those are two separate things and easier to tackle the second if Iran is in the nuclear deal.

INSKEEP: Karen Pierce, U.K. ambassador to the U.N., thanks.

PIERCE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.