The Latest: Envoy says Iran could soon exceed uranium limits

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on developments in the Mideast and Persian Gulf amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

Iran’s U.N. ambassador says the government will exceed limits on low-enriched uranium set by the 2015 nuclear deal unless Britain, France and Germany take “timely” practical steps to preserve the agreement, “which is now in critical condition.”

Majid Takht Ravanchi told a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday that the three European countries and the United States, which pulled out of the deal, will have to “accept the full responsibility for any possible consequences” if serious steps aren’t taken.

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Iran said on June 17 that it would surpass the deal’s 300-kilogram (600-pound) limit on low-enriched uranium by Thursday, and has recently quadrupled its production.

Britain, France, Germany and three other European Union countries strongly urged Iran after Wednesday’s council meeting to implement the nuclear agreement and “refrain from escalatory steps.”

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9:25 p.m.

Iran’s foreign minister says President Trump’s new sanctions targeting the Iranian supreme leader show the White House doesn’t understand “international regulations.”

Javad Zarif said Wednesday that the U.S. sanctions could violate the freedom of worship of some American Muslims because it restricts links with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That’s according to a quote by Iran’s state news agency IRNA.

Khamenei is the chief of Iran’s theocracy and considered by some Shiite Muslims as their religious guide.

The report also quoted Zarif as saying the new sanctions showed that it was a “lie” the U.S. wanted to negotiate with Iran. He said the U.S. had created “danger and tension in the region.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he doesn’t want war with Iran, but that the U.S. was confident in its military superiority.

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8:10 p.m.

The UK’s defense secretary says it’s important to protect international shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, but is calling for restraint as tensions mount between the U.S. and Iran.

Speaking at NATO headquarters Wednesday, Penny Mordaunt said it was “vitally important” to protect shipping.

The U.S. wants to create a maritime coalition to patrol the Persian Gulf. Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is due to brief his NATO counterparts on developments with Iran at the meeting.

Asked if the UK was ready to step up its naval presence, Mordaunt said “we’re already forward deployed there.”

She said: “our prime goal is to de-escalate the situation.”

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6:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he doesn’t want war with Iran but that if there is one, “it won’t last very long” because the U.S. has military superiority.

Trump told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that he was “nice” to Iran for not ordering strikes after Tehran shot down a more than $100 million U.S. surveillance drone.

Asked to respond to the Iranian president saying the White House is “afflicted by mental retardation,” Trump says the Iranian leaders are not smart. U.S. sanctions to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and supporting militant groups are biting and Iran’s resistance has led to food shortages, rioting and inflation.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Iran won’t change its stance and his website calls the Trump administration “sinister.”

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3:20 p.m.

Iran’s supreme leader says Iranians will not budge or change their stance following the new U.S. sanctions targeting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates.

The top Iranian cleric’s website on Wednesday quoted Khamenei as calling the Trump administration “the most sinister” U.S. government.

Khamenei is also quoted as saying that “the most hated figures of such an administration accuse and insult the Iranian nation. Iranian nation will not budge and will not withdraw because of the insults.”

President Donald Trump on Monday enacted the new sanctions against Khamenei and others. U.S. officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The sanctions followed Iran’s downing last week of a U.S. surveillance drone, worth over $100 million, over the Strait of Hormuz, sharply escalating the crisis.

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2:50 p.m.

Iraq’s prime minister is denying allegations that drones which targeted Saudi oil pipelines last month could have taken off from Iraq, rather than Yemen.

The attack — claimed by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who are at war with Saudi Arabia — was part of a series of incidents that escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a crisis between Washington and Tehran.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told reporters in Baghdad late on Tuesday that American officials contacted the Iraqis recently, alleging the drones may have taken off from Iraq.

He said Iraqi military and intelligence haven’t confirmed such claims.

The May 14 attack on a Saudi pipeline forced a brief shutdown but caused no casualties.

Iraq hosts more than 5,000 U.S. troops, and is also home to powerful Iranian-backed militias.

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