An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector examines a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Iran. File Photo by Kazem Ghane/IRNA/UPI | License Photo
July 1 (UPI) -- Iran has exceeded the amount of enriched uranium it's allowed to stockpile under the 2015 nuclear agreement, nuclear inspectors said Monday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran has more than 661 pounds of uranium, the limit allowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran warned European leaders 10 days ago it would surpass the limit, which is a technical violation of the deal.
"We told the Europeans that if more practical, mature and complete measures were taken, Iran's reduction [to its] commitments could be reversed. Otherwise, we will continue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.
Enriched uranium is a key ingredient in nuclear weapons but also has legitimate uses at nuclear power plants. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Monday Iran had exceeded the cap.
Iran could now face greater sanctions for violating the agreement.
Earlier Monday, Zarif said Tehran won't back down or give in to pressure from the United States, which withdrew from the agreement last year and has since imposed more sanctions.
Speaking at the National Day of Industry and Mines in Tehran, Zariff said the United States threatens Iran because of continued defeats in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. He said after using every possible means, the United States attacked the Iranian economy with sanctions, including on its crude oil exports.
"We will never succumb to international pressure, and together with the people of the world, we will force them to only treat Iran with respect and never threaten an Iranian," Zarif said.
The diplomat also said the United States called four U.N. Security Council meetings last year in an attempt to form a consensus against Iran.
"The U.S. would do anything to find allies against Iran," Zarif said. "That is why they resorted to economy as the last trick in their disposal."
The Obama-era nuclear deal, he said, made Iran a stronger, more influential power in the Middle East.
"The Americans arrived at the conclusion that, with the [deal], the Islamic Republic had broken free from the shackles that tied its hands and was increasing its regional power and presence," Zarif said.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that any attack against the United States would be met with "great and overwhelming force" and in some areas "obliteration."
Zarif also tagged Trump in a tweet that warned "misconceptions endanger peace" and U.S. sanctions amount to "war."
U.S. press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Monday that the United States will maintain "maximum pressure" on the Iranian regime until it ends its nuclear ambitions.
"It was a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level. There is little doubt even before the deal's existence, Iran was violating its terms," Grisham said. "We must restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran. The United States and its allies will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons."