France's foreign minister has suggested that Paris is seriously considering triggering a mechanism within the Iran nuclear deal that could lead to UN sanctions, given Tehran's repeated breach of parts of the 2015 accord with world powers.
The comments came on Wednesday at a time of heightened friction between Iran and the West, with Tehran breaching the deal's restrictions step by step in response to Washington's withdrawal from the deal and renewed sanctions.
"Every two months, there is another dent (in the deal by Iran) to the point where today we ask ourselves, and I'm saying this very clearly, about the implementation of the dispute resolution mechanism that exists in the deal," Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing.
Britain, France and Germany have sought to salvage the pact, under which Iran undertook to curtail its uranium enrichment programme in return for relief from sanctions crippling its economy, since the United States withdrew last year.
But the three European powers have failed to make good on the trade and investment dividends promised to Iran under the deal as they have been unable to shield Tehran from renewed US sanctions that have strangled its vital oil trade.
That has prompted Iran to renege step by step from its non-proliferation commitments under the deal. Until now the European powers have opted to hold back on triggering the mechanism, fearing it could further impede diplomatic efforts, notably by France, to defuse tensions.
The remaining parties to the deal meet in Vienna on December 6 to discuss how to move forward.
The mechanism involves a party referring a dispute to a Joint Commission comprising Iran, Russia, China, the three European powers, and the European Union and then on to the UN Security Council if that commission cannot resolve it.
If the Security Council does not vote within 30 days to continue sanctions relief, sanctions in place under previous UN resolutions would be reimposed - known as a "snapback".
"We have tried several initiatives that are going backwards (because) we have French (citizens) imprisoned (in Iran), we've established that regional attacks, notably on Saudi Arabia, from the Iranian authorities have been carried out," he said.
The magnitude of recent protests in Iran and the authorities' response also hampered efforts to persuade the United States to de-escalate the standoff, Le Drian said.
"It seems to prove them (the U.S.) right in their logic of maximum pressure, given the behaviour of the Supreme Leader and President (Hassan) Rouhani towards the protesters.