President Joe Biden has said the United States will not lift sanctions on Iran before the country returns to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, the latest impasse in an ongoing standoff between the two nations.
Biden was asked during a CBS News interview if Washington would lift sanctions to bring Tehran back to the deal, which saw the Iranian government agree to curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
“No,” Biden answered, according to a clip of the interview posted online on Sunday.
During his presidential campaign, Biden had said he hoped to return to the Iran nuclear deal and to bring Tehran, which has been increasingly breaching limits on uranium enrichment and stockpiles, back into compliance.
But since taking office, his administration has taken a harder line, saying US negotiators would not engage with their Iranian counterparts until Tehran returns to full compliance.
Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 as part of his “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran.
Earlier on Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Washington must first return to its commitments under the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), before Tehran would do the same.
“If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, the US must completely lift sanctions. And not just verbally, on paper. They must revoke the sanctions in action and we will verify it,” said Khamenei, in his first comments on the situation since Biden took office.
He also said the European signatories that have been trying to salvage the deal – Germany, France and the United Kingdom – have no right to set conditions.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested that a European Union official could coordinate a “synchronised” return to the deal.
Zarif also urged the US to move quickly, noting that legislation passed by Iran’s parliament forces the government to harden its stance on February 21. Presidential elections in June could also complicate a return to diplomacy.
Later on Sunday, a senior Biden administration official told the Reuters news agency that “there is nothing changed in the US position”.
“The United States wants Iran to come back into [compliance with] its JCPOA commitments and if does, the United States will do the same,” the official said.