Iran won't resume nuclear commitments until US lifts sanctions: Khamenei

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that the condition set by Teheran for the US is Iran's "definite policy". PHOTO: AFP

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday (Feb 7) that the United States must "completely lift" sanctions first, followed by verification by Teheran, before the Islamic republic returns to its nuclear deal commitments.

"If they want Iran to return to its commitments... America must completely lift sanctions, and not just in words or on paper," Mr Khamenei said in a televised speech to air force commanders.

"They must be lifted in action, and then we will verify and see if they have been properly lifted, and then return," he added.

The 2015 landmark deal has been hanging by a thread since US president Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from it in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Teheran. Teheran a year later suspended its compliance with most key nuclear commitments to the deal.

The new administration of US President Joe Biden has expressed willingness to return to the deal, but insisted that Teheran first resume full compliance.

Mr Biden said he won't lift sanctions against Iran as long as the Islamic republic is not adhering to its nuclear deal commitments.

Asked if he would halt sanctions to convince Iran to return to the bargaining table, Biden offered a clear reply in a CBS interview aired on Sunday: "No."

The journalist then asked if the Iranians would first have to stop enriching uranium, which drew an affirmative nod from Mr Biden.

On Jan 4, Iran announced it has stepped up its uranium enrichment process to 20 per cent purity, far above the 3.67 per cent level permitted by the deal, but far below the amount required for an atomic bomb.

And it may restrict by Feb 21 nuclear inspections if US sanctions are not lifted or other key parties to the deal do not help Teheran bypass them, according to a law passed by the Parliament in December.

According to Mr Khamenei, Iran has "a right to set conditions for the continuation" of the deal, as it has upheld its end, unlike the US and the three European members of the deal - Britain, France and Germany - who have "violated all their commitments".

"No one in the Islamic republic cares for the nonsense claimed by those not entitled to anything," he said.

Mr Khamenei insisted that the condition set by Teheran for the US is Iran's "definite policy".

Iran "will not turn back from" it, he said.

Last Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif asked the European Union to coordinate a synchronised return of both Washington and Teheran into a nuclear deal, after a diplomatic stand-off on who will act first.

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