While Tightening His Grip on Oil, Trump Extends Nuclear Waivers for Iran

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US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced on Saturday that the Trump administration is extending waivers that allow certain countries to participate in civilian nuclear projects with Iran.

The United States also said it would no longer waive sanctions that allowed Iran to ship to Oman for storage heavy water produced at its Arak facility beyond a 300-tonne limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal.

"Under the [nuclear accord] Iran can produce heavy water and this is not in violation of the agreement. It is clear that over this period there has been a serious adaptation to this illegal trick by the United States", Tasmin News Agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. "This includes denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon", State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

In a quarterly report released in February, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran continued to comply with the restrictions on its nuclear activities under the JCPOA. "We reserve the right to revoke or modify our policy covering these nonproliferation activities at any time if Iran violates its nuclear obligations or commitments or we conclude that such projects no longer provide value in constraining Iranian nuclear activities".

Some hardliners on Iran in the US Congress and outside the administration have called for the elimination of all sanctions waivers, including for civilian nuclear cooperation, in order for the administration to make good on its "maximum pressure" campaign.

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France, Germany and the United Kingdom said on Saturday, in a forceful response to the United States, that they are determined to continue legitimate trade with Iran, highlighting a special objective vehicle (SPV) to pour money for operation.

The Russian foreign ministry also criticized the US decision to cancel the two nuclear exemptions and went further, accusing Washington of aiming for a regime change in Iran, Interfax reported. "We should increase production and raise our [non-oil] exports and resist America's plots against the sale of our oil".

After Washington re-imposed sanctions on Tehran in November past year, the U.S. government granted eight countries six-months waivers to keep buying Iranian crude.

The Europeans reminded Washington that the Iran nuclear agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) remains a "crucial element" of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and therefore is "essential" to European security.

The Trump administration also took the unprecedented step of designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

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