Iran rejects reversing nuclear steps before US lifts sanctions

Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran could reverse breaches of nuclear deal once US sanctions are removed.

Iran''s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia''s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia December 30, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo
Iran''s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused the US of being 'addicted to sanctions' [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

Iran will not accept demands by the United States that it reverses acceleration of its nuclear programme before Washington lifts sanctions, foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

The demand “is not practical and will not happen”, he said at a joint news conference in Istanbul on Friday with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The new administration of US President Joe Biden has said Tehran must resume compliance with curbs on its nuclear activity under the world powers’ 2015 deal before it can rejoin the pact formally known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran breached the terms of the accord in a step-by-step response to the decision by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump to abandon the deal in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Earlier this month, Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent at its underground Fordow nuclear plant – a level it achieved before the accord.

However, Iran has said it can quickly reverse those violations if US sanctions are removed.

“If the United States fulfils its obligations, we will fulfil our obligations in full,” Zarif said.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected Iranian pressure for the US to act first.

“Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts,” Blinken told a news conference in Washington, DC.

“And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations,” Blinken told a news conference.

Zarif quickly responded on Twitter, saying Iran had “abided by the JCPOA” and had only taken “foreseen remedial measures”.

“Reality check for @SecBlinken: The US violated (the) JCPOA,” Zarif tweeted.

Iran’s parliament, dominated by hardliners, passed legislation last month that forces the government to harden its nuclear stance if US sanctions are not eased within two months.

Zarif also condemned US sanctions against Turkey over Ankara’s decision to procure Russian S-400 defence systems.

“The US government is addicted to sanctions … and this harms the world and the US itself,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies