PARIS - Iran could have nuclear weapons in one to two years if the country carries on violating the 2015 nuclear accord, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.
"If they continue with unravelling the Vienna agreement, then yes, within a fairly short period of time, between one and two years, they could have access to a nuclear weapon, which is not an option", Le Drian said on RTL radio.
EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to seek ways to guide the United States and Iran away from confrontation, knowing that a miscalculation on either side could leave the bloc facing a war and a serious nuclear proliferation crisis on its doorstep.
But the simmering tensions have highlighted Europe's struggles to influence either side and play a mediating role with powerhouses Britain, France and Germany desperately trying to pressure Iran to stick to a 2015 nuclear pact and pullback from further escalation.
They also want to convince US President Donald Trump, who on Wednesday called on them to join him in withdrawing from the nuclear agreement, that they are tough-minded allies who will not be deceived by Tehran.
But Iran's decision on Monday to scrap limits imposed on its nuclear enrichment under the arms control accord has also left the European powers in an awkward position.
Iran, which says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes, has already breached many of the restrictions under the deal, intended to increase the amount of time Tehran would need to accumulate enough fissile material for an atomic bomb from two to three months to about a year.
The latest announcements could start drastically reducing that time and the three European powers, who along with Russia and China, have attempted to salvage the deal since the United States pulled out and reimposed tough economic sanctions in 2018, are keen to send a firm message that the breaches are unacceptable.
They have agreed to launch a dispute resolution process within the accord that could ultimately lead to renewed UN sanctions on Tehran, but have hesitated on the timing following this week's tensions fearing that Iran may react badly.