Iran’s spiritual leader has made it clear his country is not prepared to give an inch on its demands if the US and its allies want it to return to a deal designed to limits its scope to create nuclear weapons.
“Our position is clear and has not changed,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state TV.
“All US sanctions have to be lifted in accordance with the Vienna agreement, and then we’ll return to the nuclear deal.”
He was referring to a 2015 deal between Iran and a group of key countries, under which Iran agreed to forego weapons development in exchange for an end to international sanctions.
But former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal so the US could unilaterally restore sanctions.
Mr Trump said the deal neglected provisions that would keep Iran from interfering in regional conflicts and developing missile programs.
Iran subsequently pulled out of the deal too.
US President Joe Biden, who took office in January, would like to resuscitate the deal somehow. However, it’s unclear if either side is ready to make the first move.
The US and three other signatories – Britain, France and Germany –have suggested some changes to the deal that would allow it to come back, but Iran is sceptical.
Referring to Mr Trump, Mr Khamenei said that “an idiot wanted to force Iran to accept these changes with its policy of maximum pressure”. But he said those changes would fail, as would any similar attempts.
Since Iran is a theocracy, Mr Khamenei often has the last word on key issues.
Mr Khameini called the US sanctions a crime, especially in light of the fact that the pandemic has made it hard for Iran to import medicines. He noted it was in Mr Biden’s power to change that policy.