Biden: No sanctions relief until Iran halts uranium enrichment

After Iran demanded that the U.S. lift sanctions before it lives up to the 2015 nuclear deal, the American president said there would be no relief until Iran complies.

By Associated Press

U.S. President Joe Biden told “CBS Evening News” that the U.S. will not lift sanctions on Iran to get the Islamic Republic back to the bargaining table.

During the interview, taped Friday and aired on Sunday, Biden was asked if Iran has to stop enriching uranium first. Biden nodded.

The interview was aired after Iranian state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying, “If (the U.S.) wants Iran to return to its commitments, it must lift all sanctions in practice, then we will do verification … then we will return to our commitments.”

Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. in 2018 from the atomic deal, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Biden has said he will seek to revive the deal, but insisted that Iran must first reverse its nuclear steps, creating a contest of wills between the nations.

“This is the definitive and irreversible policy of the Islamic Republic, and all of the country’s officials are unanimous on this, and no one will deviate from it,” Khamenei added Sunday, reiterating Iranian leaders’ previous remarks that the U.S. must ease its sanctions before Iran comes back into compliance.

The supreme leader, 81, has the final say on all matters of state in Iran and approved the efforts at reaching the nuclear deal in 2015.

In response to Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, the country violated its atomic commitments, and threatened further provocations in a bid to increase its leverage and get Biden to prioritize a return to the deal as he moves to dismantle Trump’s legacy.

In the past, Israel has produced evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Support for this warning consists in part of a trove of documents and other evidence smuggled out of a secret location in Tehran by Israeli agents in 2018.

Iran denies the charges.

Following the killing last December of an Iranian scientist credited with spearheading the country’s military nuclear program, Iran’s parliament approved a law to block international nuclear inspectors later this month — a serious violation of the accord.

Iran has enriched uranium closer to weapons-grade levels and said it would experiment with uranium metals, a key component of a nuclear warhead. The country has announced its moves and insisted that all breaches of the pact are easily reversible. Tehran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.