Iran says leaving nuclear treaty one of many options after U.S. sanctions move

Iran said on Sunday it could quit a treaty against the spread of nuclear weapons after the United States tightens sanctions, while an Iranian general said the U.S. Navy was interacting as before with an elite military unit blacklisted by Washington.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration withdrew last year from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions.

Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions.

“The Islamic Republic’s choices are numerous, and the country’s authorities are considering them … and leaving NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) is one of them,” state broadcaster IRIB’s website quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying.

Iran has threatened in the past to leave the NPT, as U.S. President Donald Trump moved to scrap the 2015 deal with world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France.

Separately, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff said the IRGC – which ensures security in Gulf waters and the Strait of Hormuz for Iran – had not observed any change in the U.S. military’s behavior towards the elite force after the blacklisting.

“U.S. warships are obliged to respond to the IRGC on the passage of the Strait of Hormuz … and until yesterday they have been answering IRGC questions, and we have not seen a change in their procedures,” Major General Mohammad Baqeri was quoted as saying on Sunday by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Lieutenant Chloe Morgan, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command spokeswoman, said on Sunday: “The Strait of Hormuz is an international waterway. Threats to close the strait impact the international community and undermine the free flow of commerce.

Iran has also threatened to pull out of the 2015 deal unless European powers enable it to receive economic benefits.

The Europeans have said they would help companies do business with Iran as long as it abides by the deal, but Tehran has criticized what it sees as the slow pace of progress on a promised payment mechanism for Iran-Europe trade.

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