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Iran announced on Sunday it would abandon limitations on enriching uranium, taking a further step back from commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, but it would continue to cooperate with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Iran had been expected to announce its latest stance on the deal this weekend. But its announcement coincided with a major escalation of hostilities with Washington following the U.S. martyr of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike on Friday in Baghdad.

State television said Iran would not respect any limits set down in the pact on the country’s nuclear work: whether the limit on its number of uranium enrichment centrifuges to its enrichment capacity, the level to which uranium could be enriched, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium or Iran’s nuclear Research and Development activities.

 “Iran will continue its nuclear enrichment with no restrictions .... and based on its technical needs,” a government statement cited by television said.

Iran has steadily overstepped the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the accord in 2018 and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s oil trade.

Under the nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions.

Sunday’s statement said Tehran can quickly reverse its steps if U.S. sanctions are removed.

“This step is within JCPOA (deal) & all 5 steps are reversible upon EFFECTIVE implementation of reciprocal obligations,” tweeted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif referencing the acronym that stands for the deal’s official name, “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

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JCPOA enriching uranium 2015 nuclear deal
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