US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday a lot of progress had been made with Iran and that he was not looking for regime change in Iran.
Trump, who made the remarks at a Cabinet meeting in the White House, did not give details about the progress, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the meeting Iran had said it was prepared to negotiate about its missile program.
Iran and the United States sent mixed signals on Tuesday about resolving their disputes as Iran’s supreme leader threatened to further breach the 2015 nuclear deal while the US president cited “a lot of progress.”
Tensions have risen since Trump last year abandoned the major powers’ nuclear deal with Iran under which Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in return for the lifting of global sanctions crippling its economy.
Washington has since reimposed draconian sanctions to throttle Iran’s oil trade in a “maximum pressure” policy to force Tehran to agree stricter limits on its nuclear capacity, curb its ballistic missile program and end support for proxy forces in a regional power struggle with US- backed Gulf Arabs.
Fears of direct US-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone, and a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.
Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday said Tehran would keep removing restraints on its nuclear activity in the deal - struck with Britain, China, France, Germany Russia and the United States - and retaliate for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate authority, accused Britain, Germany and France of failing to uphold obligations under the deal to restore Iranian access to global trade, especially for Tehran’s oil exports blocked by US sanctions.
“According to our foreign minister, Europe made 11 commitments, none of which they abided by. We abided by our commitments and even beyond them. Now that we’ve begun to reduce our commitments, they oppose it. How insolent! You didn’t abide by your commitments!” Khamenei said, according to his website.
“We have started to reduce our commitments and this trend shall continue,” Khamenei said in remarks carried by state television.
United Nations nuclear inspectors last week confirmed Iran is now enriching uranium to 4.5% fissile purity, above the 3.67% limit set by its deal, the second breach in as many weeks after Tehran exceeded limits on its stock of low-enriched uranium.
The level at which Iran is now refining uranium is still well below the 20% purity of enrichment Iran reached before the deal, and the 90% needed to yield bomb-grade nuclear fuel. Low-enriched uranium provides fuel for civilian power plants.