Iran: US sanctions 'unacceptable'

Iran: US sanctions 'unacceptable'
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A top Iranian official said Thursday that sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are “unacceptable,” but that Tehran is committed to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal that has begun to unravel in recent weeks.

“We believe that escalation by the United States is unacceptable and uncalled for. We have exercised maximum restraints,” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said during a visit to Tokyo, according to The Associated Press.

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Zarif also reportedly defended Iran’s right to respond to Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 and the imposition of new sanctions, saying “a multilateral deal cannot be treated unilaterally.”

Iran’s supreme leader Wednesday warned that Tehran would enrich uranium stockpiles to weapons-grade level, violating the nuclear agreement.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly threatened to resume higher uranium enrichment, beyond the 3.67 percent permitted under the deal, in 60 days if no new agreement is reached. Iranian officials have said nuclear scientists could achieve 20 percent enrichment within four days, according to the AP, a mark it is not known to have reached in the past. 

Scientists say the time to reach weapons-grade enrichment of 90 percent is halved once the 20 percent threshold is reached. 

“Achieving 20 percent enrichment is the most difficult part,” Khamenei said, according to the AP. “The next steps are easier than this step.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani first announced last week that he would curtail Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal amid rising tensions with the U.S.

The White House announced fresh sanctions on Iran's steel, iron, aluminum and copper sectors hours after the announcement.

“It is … the policy of the United States to deny the Iranian government revenue, including revenue derived from the export of products from Iran's iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, that may be used to provide funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression, and military expansion,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE said in the executive order imposing the sanctions.

The administration has previously imposed sanctions against Iranian financial institutions and its oil industry, the country’s largest revenue producer.

Tensions have escalated between Washington and Tehran in recent weeks, leading the U.S. to send a carrier strike group to the region to combat any potential threats emanating out of Iran.