(SOUNDBITE) (English) VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE, SAYING: "Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve." U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday aimed a new warning at Iran after the Islamic Republic announced it had officially breached the 2015 landmark nuclear deal by boosting its enrichment of uranium beyond the agreed limits.
A spokesman for Iran's nuclear agency said Monday Tehran had enriched uranium above the 3.67 percent cap and threatened to ramp up enrichment to 20 percent... a path that could lead Iran to an eventual nuclear weapon.
Tensions have risen sharply since President Donald Trump, defying European allies, withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran's oil sector, hoping Iran would agree to renegotiate the pact.
Iran has refused, and on Sunday said it would keep pulling back on its commitments under the deal every 60 days, unless European countries protected it from the American sanctions.
On Monday, the European Union urged Iran to halt its activities and return to the deal's commitments.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) SPOKESPERSON FOR EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF FEDERICA MOGHERINI, MAJA KOCIJANCIC, SAYING: "That also includes the production of low-enriched uranium beyond respected JCPOA stockpile limits." Tensions have only grown after a series of attacks on oil tankers in the region that the U.S. blamed on Iran, and Iran's downing of a U.S. drone, which the U.S. nearly answered with airstrikes.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE, SAYING: "We hope for the best, but the United States of America and our military are prepared to protect our interests and protect our personnel and our citizens in the region." In his prepared remarks, Pence had planned to say the U.S. was willing to talk and listen to Iran but he dropped that line in the final speech.
Iran has said it will not negotiate with the U.S. under sanctions, and on Twitter Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the U.S. will not get a better nuclear deal from Iran.