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Iran steps away from parts of nuclear deal on anniversary of U.S. withdrawal

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Image: President Hassan Rouhani heads a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran
President Hassan Rouhani heads a Cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday. -
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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has informed ambassadors from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia that it would stop implementing parts of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, state media reported Wednesday.

The announcements came amid rising pressure on Tehran from the Trump White House.

World news

In a speech broadcast on national television on the anniversary of the America's withdrawal from the deal, President Hassan Rouhani said the country would also resume high level enrichment of uranium if world powers did not keep their promises under the Obama-era agreement.

The 2015 deal saw sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. After the U.S. withdrew from the accord it restored crippling sanctions on Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis.

"We felt that the nuclear deal needs a surgery and the painkiller pills of the last year have been ineffective," Rouhani said. "This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it."

Rouhani said the remaining signatories had 60 days to implement their promises to protect Iran's oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions.

The letters were delivered to envoys of countries still committed to the deal despite the withdrawal of the United States from the accord last year.

Rouhani also warned of a "strong reaction" if European leaders instead sought to impose more sanctions on Iran via the U.N. Security Council. He did not elaborate.

Western governments had long feared Iran's atomic program could allow it to build nuclear weapons. Iran has always maintained its program is for peaceful purposes.

Under terms of the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 660 pounds of low-enriched uranium. That's compared to the 22,046 pounds of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

While his administration has acknowledged that Iran has abided by the agreement, President Donald Trump has made countering Iran's power a foreign policy priority. On Monday, the administration announced it had expedited the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and sent an Air Force bomber squadron to the Persian Gulf.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called off a planned visit to Germanyto fly to Iraq a day after the Trump administration said Iran posed a growing threat to U.S. forces and interests in the Middle East.

F. Brinley Bruton reported from London, and Ali Arouzi from Tehran.