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Iran has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it has launched a plan to increase its uranium enrichment capacity, nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered the country's atomic energy agency to prepare to accelerate uranium enrichment if the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) fails.

The Iran deal paved the way for the partial lifting of global sanctions against the country, in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme for a number of years.

As for curbing Iran's global influence, the supreme leader stressed that "we will continue our support for oppressed nations".

The remaining signatories of the deal - France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China - still see the worldwide accord as the best chance of stopping Tehran developing a nuclear weapon and are trying to salvage it. The JCPOA allows Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear program for commercial, medical and industrial purposes in line with worldwide non-proliferation standards.

The Trump administration argues the nuclear deal doesn't address other unrelated issues such as Iran's ballistic missiles, regional influence, support for "terrorist" groups and human rights.

Issacharoff said that despite "differences of opinion" on how to achieve the aim of hemming in Iran on nuclear matters, "we share the same goal". "Yesterday, he explained how he wants to do it - with unlimited uranium enrichment to create a nuclear arsenal", he said.

After eight years with Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found the United States president he wanted in Donald Trump.

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During a meeting with Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, in Berlin she said that while she had concerns about the 2015 deal it remained the best option available to prevent an arms race in the region.

In return, Iran received relief from sanctions, most of which were dropped in January 2016.

At the same time, relations between Israel and Iran have dramatically escalated over the latter's alleged military presence in Syria, being further exacerbated by a suspected Israeli attack in the suburbs of Syria's Damascus against arms depots, which according to Tel Aviv belonged to Tehran's Revolutionary Guards.

France's PSA, which manufactures Peugeot and Citroen cars, on Monday became the latest to announce its plans to pull out of Iran, where it sold almost 445,000 cars a year ago.

The remaining backers and parties to the agreement, however, have limited influence on Washington, whose wrath they also face after Mr Trump warned that the United States would impose sanctions on companies that continue to do business with Iran.

"The aim to prevent Iran from developing any kind of nuclear capacity was always the foundation of worldwide policy on Iran", Israel's ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, told AFP ahead of the visit.

PSA followed in the footsteps of French oil giant Total, whose chief executive said last week that the chances of winning exemptions to the USA sanctions were "very slim".


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