January 6, 2020 / 7:25 PM / 20 days ago

European powers to decide in coming days on Iran dispute mechanism - French minister

FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s foreign minister said on Monday the substance of the Iran nuclear deal was slowly disappearing and European powers would decide in coming days whether to launch a dispute resolution process over Iran’s latest violations.

Iran said on Sunday that it would scrap limits on enriching uranium, taking a further step back from the 2015 agreement with six major powers. Its decision followed the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike.

“The latest decisions mean that the Iranians can now enrich uranium without any constraints, with the quantities they want, in the areas they want, and with the number of centrifuges they want,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV.

“The repeated violations leave us today asking about the long-term validity of this (nuclear) accord. We are considering launching the dispute mechanism resolution ... we will take a decision in the coming days.”

Launching a dispute resolution process could eventually lead to renewed U.N. sanctions on Tehran.

Le Drian, whose country has led efforts to defuse tensions between Iran and the United States, said both powers needed to return to the negotiating table, but warned Iran against carrying out responses that could escalate the situation.

“We aren’t at war, but if we don’t mobilise to reduce tensions then the risk of war is there,” he said. “There is always room for diplomacy.”

Asked whether the U.S. strike that killed Soleimani was a political act by U.S. President Donald Trump to distract from domestic problems, Le Drian said the Iranian commander was not a “choir boy”, was on the U.S. and European Union terrorism lists and had been mandated by Iran’s Supreme Leader to carry out destabilising acts in the Middle East.

Reporting by John Irish, Editing by Franklin Paul and Timothy Heritage

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