Iran’s top leader said on Monday he had ordered preparations to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after the U.S. withdrawal, and he vowed never to accept limits on Tehran’s ballistic missile program, APA reports quoting Reuters.
Tensions between Iran and the West have resurged since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, calling it deeply flawed.
European signatories are scrambling to save the accord, which they see as crucial to forestalling an Iranian nuclear weapon, by seeking to ring-fence trade with Iran against new U.S. financial sanctions to dissuade Tehran from quitting the deal.
“Our enemies will never be able to halt our nuclear progress...It is their bad dream and will not happen,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech.
In case European, Russian and Chinese signatories to the deal prove unable to protect its economic benefits for Iran, Khamenei said, “I have ordered Iran’s atomic energy agency to be prepared to upgrade our (uranium) enrichment capacity”.
He appeared to be hardening a threat to restore Iran’s disputed enrichment drive first made after Trump quit the nuclear deal.
One of Trump’s demands - which European allies support in principle - is new negotiations to rein in Iran’s ballistic missile program, which was not covered by the nuclear deal.
Khamenei again ruled this out. “Some Europeans are talking about limiting our defensive missile program. I am telling the Europeans, ‘Limiting our missile work is a dream that will never come true,” he said.
Under the deal, the Islamic Republic curbed its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel and in return won a lifting of most international sanctions that had hobbled its economy.
Trump also objected that the 2015 deal, reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, did not address Iran’s nuclear work beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria. Though committed to the deal, European powers share Trump’s concerns and want broader talks with Iran to address the issues.
Khamenei rejected this as “economic and psychological... warfare against us, and new American sanctions are part of it”.
For all of Iran’s fierce public riposte to U.S. threats of tougher sanctions, some senior Iranian officials see the U.S. position as a “bargaining strategy” and believe the door to a diplomatic compromise should stay open.