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story.lead_photo.caption Shoppers crowd the old main bazaar Tuesday in Tehran, Iran. Many Iranians say the U.S. sanctions against their country are hurting average people but not their leaders.

TEHRAN, Iran -- In a joint statement Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain and the European Union's foreign-policy chief urged Iran to "refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal," a day after the country announced it had broken the enriched-uranium limit set in the 2015 accord with world powers.

The statement said that "we have been consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran." They called for Iran to reverse the move.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to have less than 661 pounds of uranium enriched to a maximum of 3.67%, which can be used for power stations but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. Both Iran and the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency confirmed Monday that Tehran had broken through that limit.

The foreign ministries of Russia and China, meanwhile, both blamed rising tensions on the sanctions imposed by the U.S. after President Donald Trump's decision last year to pull out of the nuclear deal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday that the sanctions have effectively prevented Iran from selling the excess uranium it produces, contributing to its stockpiling.

He also called on Tehran to "show restraint, not yield to emotions," and observe provisions of the deal.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Tuesday that Beijing remains committed to the 2015 agreement but added: "As we have repeatedly stressed, the U.S. 'maximum pressure' is the root cause of the current tension on the Iranian nuclear issue."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday tweeted that Iran will comply with the 2015 accord to the same extent as European signatories follow through on their economic commitments.

"So moving forward, Iran will comply with its commitments under the [nuclear accord] in exactly the same manner as the EU/E3 have -- and will -- comply with theirs. Fair enough?" he tweeted.

Iran has threatened for weeks to push its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels starting Sunday if Europe doesn't put forth a new deal to protect Tehran from U.S. sanctions.

On Tuesday, Iran's oil minister said a European mechanism to shield some trade from the crippling U.S. sanctions won't be useful if it doesn't allow for oil sales.

"Without oil deal, it's very clear, Instex will not work," Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in a Bloomberg Television interview, referring to the trade conduit established by the U.K., France and Germany.

The three European nations that remain party to the 2015 nuclear accord have been scrambling to find ways to skirt U.S. sanctions.

Instex is mainly intended to facilitate trade of basic goods such as food and medical products, but not the oil sales that are Iran's lifeline and a main target of the sanctions. Iran says it can't be expected to abide by the accord while the U.S. penalties rob it of the economic benefits it was promised in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

Iran is striving "day and night to find ways" to export its oil, Zanganeh said.

CITIZENS' VIEWS

In Tehran, opinions differ about the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, but many people in Iran's capital city agree that American sanctions hurt the average person, not those in charge.

"There should be some negotiations. Both parties should talk in a friendly manner," said Nahroba Alirezei, a 35-year-old English-language teacher. "They should think about the Iranian people and the Iranian society and the American society. Young people should not suffer more than this."

While the government says that challenging the West over Iran's nuclear program is necessary, some Iranians like Sajjad Nazary, a 23-year-old university student in Tehran, criticize the move as leading to more economic suffering.

"Instead of the nuclear program, the Iranian people need bread," Nazary said outside Tehran's Grand Bazaar. "They want their economic situation to get better. The point is with nuclear energy, you can't make your children's bellies feel full."

Nazary, like others there, said he didn't believe a war would break out.

"Trump is too smart to do that, and he'll in no way harm himself like that," Nazary said. "The situation is dangerous, but none of us are aware of the politics. Maybe all of this was a threat meant to open some new ways."

He added: "This was just a threat to make the Iranian officials come to their senses."

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have caused the U.S. to rush an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, F-22 fighters and thousands of additional troops to the Middle East. While Iran says it doesn't seek war, it recently shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone. Iran also now acknowledges disruption of GPS coordinates in the country.

Hossein Fallah Joshaghani, a government telecommunications official, told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency on Monday that the source of the GPS disruptions in the country had been determined, but no action was taken. That suggests an authority in Iran is actively disrupting GPS systems, which can be used for U.S. drones and airstrikes, as well as civil aviation and mobile phone apps.

While some blame Trump for the tensions, Mehdi Hamzeh Nia, a 39-year-old appliance salesman, applauded the U.S. president as a "successful businessman, a man who knows what he's doing and doesn't want others to know what he's doing."

Asked about the economy, which has seen the rial go from 32,000 to $1 to now nearly 130,000 to $1, Hamzeh Nia blamed not only the sanctions but also local mismanagement. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran's government has careened between economic crises involving poor planning and embezzlement, which U.S. sanctions have exacerbated.

"I think 50% is related to sanctions and 50% is domestic," he said. "Even if the foreign 50% is resolved, and the domestic 50% is not fixed, our situation will still get worse."

The fall in the rial has hit retirees particularly hard. Yussuf, a retired banking official who would only give his first name for fear of retribution, said things remained extremely difficult for those on fixed incomes like himself. He said he took on odd jobs to help make ends meet.

"I think in very tough situations, wise decisions are made easier," he said. "I think that the officials at the right moment will not let us fall off the edge of a cliff."

But he was not complimentary of Trump's approach.

"In the past he was not predictable, but now he almost is," Yussuf said. "For everyone around the world, it's now clear that he only thinks about American interests."

Nazary and Hamzeh Nia, both younger men, said they thought about leaving Iran. Hamzeh Nia said he worried about how to support his family, which includes a 5-year-old son.

"We would love to leave, if the situation remains like this," Hamzeh Nia said. "There is no future for you here."

But the most pressing concern for Alirezei, the English teacher, is the need to ease tensions.

"It's not a good idea to respond to threats with threats," Alirezei said.

Asked what she hoped for, she responded in English: "Peace, just peace."

Information for this article was contributed by Jon Gambrell, Mehdi Fattahi, Nasser Karimi and staff members of The Associated Press; and by Annmarie Hordern, Ladane Nasseri, Golnar Motevalli, Benjamin Harvey and William Horobin of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 07/03/2019

Print Headline: Don't stray from nuclear deal, European officials urge Iran

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