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The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna 

EU nations threaten Iran with sanctions over nuclear worries

Three European Union member states actions that could open the door to sanctions against Iran in response to Tehran's attempts to roll back parts of a nuclear deal. But the EU's foreign policy chief says he hopes to prevent punishing actions against the Islamic republic.

By Stefan J. Bos 

Foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany suggested in a statement that Iran violated the 2015 nuclear deal. They also noted that Iran had defied critical restrictions on its nuclear program since May last year.

That's why the ministers of the three European Union nations said that Iran left them with no other choice than to launch a dispute process. 

The top diplomats noted that Iran's government had not met its commitments. Iran has intensified sensitive activities to enrich uranium -- which can be used to make a nuclear weapon. Tehran said it was in response to the United States pulling out of the deal in 2018.

Its latest step in January to forego the limit on the number of centrifuges used in uranium enrichment prompted the Europeans to trigger a dispute mechanism.

If the issue isn't resolved, it could eventually end up at the United Nations Security Council, which could reimpose sanctions.

Iran in trouble

Previous sanctions ranging from, for instance, freezing Iranian assets to an arms and trade embargo had a profound impact on Iran's economy, prompting social unrest.   

However, the EU's new foreign policy chief Josep Borell told reporters there is still time to prevent sanctions and to save the deal. "

"We have to preserve the nuclear deal," he said. "We have to go back to full and effective implementation" of the accord, known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Borell added. "There is no alternative to this agreement." 

He wanted to rescue the deal, "In the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue”. Borell stressed "that in light of the ongoing dangerous escalations in the Middle East it is now more important than ever".

The standoff comes as tensions soar between the West and Iran following the killing of top commander Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike. Soon after, Tehran admitted accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian airliner last week, killing all 176 people on board.

14 January 2020, 18:04