Iran warned on Monday that it was ready to take a “stronger step” in reducing its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal if Europe cannot offer the country new terms by a deadline at the end of this week.
"Iran is prepared for reducing its commitments if the European parties do not show enough determination... The third step has been designed and will be stronger than the first and second steps to create balance between Iran's rights and commitments to the JCPOA," state news agency IRNA quoted foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying.
Iran had set Friday as a deadline for Europe to offer it a way to sell its crude oil on the global market. Crushing US sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal over a year ago have halted those sales.
Rabiei described Iran's strategy to journalists at Monday's press conference in Tehran as "commitment for commitment."
"Iran's oil should be bought and its money should be accessible to return to Iran," Rabiei said. "This is the agenda of our talks."
It is unclear what the terms of negotiation are. In theory, anyone caught buying Iranian crude oil would be subject to US sanctions and potentially locked out of the American financial market.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Moscow, while his deputy was to travel to Paris with a team of economists Monday in a renewed diplomatic push.
Iran and France’s views have become closer over the nuclear deal, mainly after phone calls between President Hassan Rouhani and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Rabiei said.
“Fortunately the points of views have become closer on many issues and now technical discussions are being held on ways to carry out the Europeans’ commitments (in the nuclear deal),” he added without elaborating.
Already, Iran has gone over limits set by the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last week that Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA as the deal is known.
The UN agency also said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5%, above the 3.67% allowed.
Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for peaceful pursuits and is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. At the 4.5% level, the uranium can help power Iran's Bushehr reactor, the country's only nuclear power plant.
It remains unclear what further step Iran will take, though it could involve restarting advanced centrifuges prohibited by the deal or further bumping up its enrichment of uranium. Iran insists the steps it has taken so far are easily reversible.
"We will announce implementation of the third step in a letter to the Europeans if the Europeans do not impalement necessary measures by Thursday," said Zarif in a Sunday interview with Iran's parliament news agency, ICANA.
The nuclear deal is meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic relief. It has been complicated by the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the deal and Washington's increased sanctions on Tehran, which have been taking a toll on the Iranian economy.
That has left the other signatories — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China — struggling to come up with enough incentives to keep Iran in the deal.