(Adds Instex material)
By John Irish
PARIS, July 3 (Reuters) - Iran will gain nothing by departing from the terms of its nuclear agreement, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday, responding to Tehran’s announcement that it will boost the enrichment level of its uranium. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani earlier said Iran would raise its uranium enrichment after July 7 to whatever levels it needs beyond the 3.67% purity cap set in the 2015 deal.
“Iran will gain nothing by leaving the Vienna accord,” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing.
“Putting it (the deal) into question will only increase the already heightened tensions in the region.”
Iran on Monday said that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted, its first major breach of the nuclear pact.
“That’s why France with its European partners have asked strongly that Iran reverse the excess enrichment without delay and refrain from further measures that undermine its nuclear commitments,” Von der Muhll said.
With punishing U.S. sanctions hitting its economy, Tehran has said that it will continue its current action until the European powers party to the deal - France, Britain and Germany - do more to ensure it benefits financially from the accord, notably in terms of its oil revenue.
The European powers are seeking to pull Washington and Tehran back from direct confrontation and want to avoid escalating the diplomatic standoff to the United Nations.
When asked whether a symbolic trade mechanism planned by Europe would soon begin to offer at least some pharmaceutical and food transfers, von der Muhll said the European powers were not sparing any effort, but that it was not solely up to them to ensure Iran reaped the economic benefits of the deal.
“The Instex clearing mechanism was created to facilitate the financial transactions of legitimate business transactions between Europe and Iran, based on Iran’s full compliance with its JCPOA (Iran deal) commitments,” she said.
“This mechanism is now operational and the processing of the first transactions has been initiated; cooperation with the Iranian mirror structure must continue to sustain the flow of trade,” she said without elaborating.
Instex is a barter trade mechanism that aims to avoid direct financial transfers by offsetting balances between importers and exporters on the European side. Iran is in the process of setting up an equivalent mechanism for Iranian companies.
The structure of the Iranian “mirror” company has yet to be finalised, European diplomats have said, although the Europeans have created an advanced payment system that could enable some small transactions soon.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said Instex must include oil sales or provide substantial credit facilities for it to beneficial. (Reporting by John Irish and Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by John Stonestreet, William Maclean)