Iran takes ‘final’ stance on nuclear deal and says US must lift sanctions before it will rejoin

Iran’s supreme leader has said Tehran’s “irreversible and final” decision is to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal only if Washington lifts sanctions on the country.

The comment, reported by Iranian State TV, comes as US President Joe Biden said he would lift sanctions to simply get Iran back to the negotiating table.

The deal between Iran and six major powers limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms – an ambition Iran has long denied having – in return for the easing of US and other sanctions.

But former US president Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, denouncing it as one-sided in Iran’s favour, and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

“Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the deal, not the United States and the three European countries… If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the United States must in practice… lift all sanctions,” state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying during a meeting with Air Force commanders.

“Then, after verifying whether all sanctions have been lifted correctly, we will return to full compliance… It is the irreversible and final decision and all Iranian officials have consensus over it.”

While Iran has insisted the US first drop its sanctions before it resumes compliance, Washington has demanded the reverse.

In a segment of a CBS News interview taped on Friday and broadcast on Sunday, Mr Biden said “no” when asked whether Washington would lift sanctions to get Tehran to the negotiating table.

“There is nothing changed in the US position,” said a senior US official. “The United States wants Iran to come back into (compliance with) its JCPOA commitments and if it does, the United States will do the same.”

Iran in January said it has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear site, well above the deal’s limit but far short of the 90% that is weapons-grade.

In response to Mr Trump’s withdrawal, Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits by building up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, refining uranium to a higher level of purity and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.

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