May 8, 2019 / 12:46 PM / 19 days ago

Britain extremely concerned about Iran's move on nuclear deal

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at church, as Brexit turmoil continues, in Sonning, Britain, May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday it was extremely concerned about Iran’s announcement that it is scaling back curbs to its nuclear program and said that Tehran would face consequences if it backed away from its nuclear deal.

Iran announced steps that stop short of violating its 2015 deal with world powers for now, but threatened more action if countries did not shield it from U.S. sanctions.

“We are extremely concerned about this announcement and urge Iran to continue to meet its commitments under the deal and not to take escalatory steps,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said.

“This deal is a crucial agreement which makes the world safer and we will ensure it remains in place for as long as Iran upholds these commitments.”

U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo is having meetings with May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday, where the move from Iran is expected to be discussed.

Although the measures, unveiled by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani a year after Washington pulled out of the nuclear deal, do not appear to violate terms of the deal yet, they could do so in the future if Iran were to persist on the course he set out.

Junior foreign office minister Mark Field told Britain’s parliament that the nuclear deal was the “only game in town” and that Britain and other European powers wanted it to succeed. But he added that the move from Rouhani was an “unwelcome step.”

“We are not at this stage talking about reimposing sanctions, but one has to remember that they were of course lifted in exchange for the nuclear restrictions,” he said.

“Should Iran cease meeting its nuclear commitments, there would of course be consequences. But for so long as Iran keeps to its commitments, then so too will the United Kingdom.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout and Elizabeth Piper, writing by David Milliken. Editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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