The Latest: Report says Iran will halt commitments to R&D

The state-run IRNA news agency is reporting that Iran will halt its commitments on research and development as a third step to move away from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The Latest on the Persian Gulf crisis (all times local):

11:55 p.m.

IRNA said the Foreign Ministry announced the move from a detail in a letter from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. The report said further details would be announced later.

Iran has yet to say officially what exact steps it will take as a deadline it gave Europeans to salvage the deal is to expire Friday. However, centrifuges that speed enrichment would further shorten the time Tehran would need to have enough material available to build a nuclear weapon — if it chose to do so.

Iran's atomic energy agency was to make an announcement on Saturday detailing its next step, which President Hassan Rouhani described as highly significant.


3:30 p.m.

Iran's atomic energy agency is to make an announcement on Saturday about its next step away from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, a move that President Hassan Rouhani has described as highly significant.

Rouhani on Wednesday reiterated Iran's threat to take additional steps that go against the landmark nuclear accord and accelerate nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide a solution, calling it Iran's third, "most important step" away from the deal.

Rouhani indicated that after Friday's deadline expires and Iran takes the next step, another two-month deadline to Europe will follow with the aim to resume talks with European leaders on reviving the deal.

The deal has steadily unraveled after President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the accord last year.


12:35 p.m.

The ship owner says Iran has released seven crew members from detained British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero and the mariners have flown out of Iran.

That's according to a statement on Thursday quoting Stena Bulk CEO Erik Hanell.

There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials, nor any acknowledgement in state-run media.

Iran seized the tanker on July, saying it violated Iranian laws, after authorities in the British territory of Gibraltar seized an Iranian tanker said to be to be carrying fuel to Syria in violation of EU sanctions on oil sales to the government in Damascus. The Iranian vessel was released in August.

The remaining 16 crew members are to stay onboard the vessel.


10 a.m.

Israel's prime minister says now is the time to ratchet up pressure on Iran and not the time for talks, as the Islamic Republic appears poised to move further away from its commitments under the nuclear deal with world powers.

Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran's continued violations of the deal, as well as "aggressive actions" on international shipping and attempts to stage "murderous attacks" on Israel are the impetus for more sanctions.

He spoke Thursday ahead of a trip to London.

Tehran is expected to take additional steps away from the 2015 nuclear accord Friday and accelerate nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide a solution for Iran to sell its oil abroad following escalated U.S. sanctions

President Donald Trump suggested a day earlier he was open to negotiations with Iran.