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US envoy says Iran sanctions working, warns against nuclear breaches

Brian Hook, special representative for Iran, speaks about the creation of the Iran Action Group at the State Department, in Washington, Aug. 16, 2018.

The United States’ policy of maximum economic pressure on Tehran is working, but US sanctions did not give Iran the right to breach its nuclear commitments, a senior US official said on Monday.

“We are dedicated to this policy of maximum economic pressure because it is working, it is denying the regime historic levels of revenue,” US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook told Reuters in an interview.

Hook was speaking before a meeting with senior French, British and German diplomats in Paris to convince them that the US policy was the best way to get Iran back to the negotiating table.

The meeting also comes with Iran on course to reach that limit of the maximum amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to have under a 2015 nuclear deal that includes the three European powers, Russia and China.

When asked about Iran possibly breaching those restrictions, Hook said it was clear there would be consequences and that despite the US pullout from the accord in 2018 and subsequent punishing sanctions, it was not an excuse to violate the accord.

“Our sanctions do not give Iran the right to accelerate its nuclear program,” he said. “It can never get near a nuclear bomb. We are looking very closely at that so it doesn’t get below the one year nuclear breakout time.”

The 2015 deal, which lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities, is aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to a year from roughly 2-3 months.