Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that Tehran is “completely ready” to restart its nuclear program if the US fails to live up to its commitments under the July 2015 nuclear deal.
“If [the] US creates a situation that continuation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would damage Tehran’s national interest, then Iran is completely ready to come back to the situation it had prior to the JCPOA even more powerfully than before,” Zarif was quoted by Iranian state media as saying.
The foreign minister spoke to reporters in Isfahan in central Iran.
On the campaign trail during last year’s election, US President Donald Trump and many Republican lawmakers vowed to gut the deal once in office. But since the election, the Trump administration has signaled a gentler approach, though it has not provided details of its new policy.
Earlier this month, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said “the new administration of the United States just started and they are looking at this issue,” but “it is very early for them to give their assessment.”
The agreement saw Iran scale down substantially its nuclear activities and submit to close inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency in exchange for relief from painful sanctions.
The accord extends the “breakout time” needed for Iran to accumulate enough fissile material for a bomb to at least a year, giving the international community time to react, according to proponents and the administration of former US president Barack Obama, which helped negotiate the agreement.
In his Monday comments in Isfahan, Zarif said Iran was “committed to the promises it has made” and that the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei had stipulated that Iran “is not to break them,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
But, he warned, it could do so very quickly if the agreement falls through, and the restored nuclear program would be more advanced that the one mostly frozen by the 2015 deal.
“During the past couple of months, with the efforts made by skilled Iranian scientists and experts, we have succeeded [in making] operational the most advanced centrifuges, that were just an idea at the time of approving the JCPOA,” Zarif is quoted as saying.
The Mehr News Agency quoted him saying the new centrifuges “would enrich uranium 20 times faster and more efficiently,” and that “the technical know-how has now been indigenized.”
He accused the US of repeatedly failing to fulfill its commitments under the deal, but said “pursuing the JCPOA is still justifiable for Iran” for economic reasons.
Iran has always denied wanting nuclear weapons, saying its activities are purely peaceful. The international community vehemently disagreed, and placed a strict sanctions regime on Iran for much of the past decade, until Tehran agreed to halting its program in the 2015 deal.
Besides the US and Iran, the other signatories to the JCPOA — Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany — oppose ending the agreement.
AFP contributed to this report.