Iran's uranium enrichment due to begin
The nuclear deal between Iran and global powers is set to suffer another major setback as Tehran plans to start enriching uranium beyond the 3.67-per-cent level that had been agreed under the 2015 accord.
Iran has set a deadline for Sunday for Europe to offer new terms to the accord, and is threatening to accelerate uranium enrichment to five per cent, a concentration above the limit set by its 2015 nuclear deal.
It would mark Iran's second breach of the agreement, after it earlier this week confirmed exceeding a limit of 300 kilograms on its low-enriched uranium production.
US President Donald Trump last year pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear accord and began imposing a "maximum pressure" campaign of strict sanctions on Tehran, over the objections of his European allies.
The remaining powers in the agreement, including Britain, France and Germany, have sought to keep it alive by developing a money transaction system known as Instex that allows Iran to circumvent US sanctions and continue doing business with international partners.
French President Emmanuel Macron says he is trying to find a way by July 15 to resume dialogue between Iran and Western partners.
Macron's office said in a statement that the French leader spoke for more than an hour on Saturday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani amid a standoff between Tehran and the US.
Macron expressed "strong concern about new weakening" of the 2015 accord aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran has announced a step-by-step process to partially withdraw from the deal. That includes plans to enrich uranium up to 20-per-cent purity.
Uranium needs to be enriched to 90 per cent for a nuclear weapon to be built, but getting from 20 to 90 per cent is considered to be a relatively quick process.
The UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to address Iran's breach of the deal, in a session that comes at the request of the United States.