Iran says it could restart nuclear program if needed

President Hassan Rouhani assures Iranians of consequences if world powers violate atomic agreement

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks with media at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, February 27, 2016. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks with media at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, February 27, 2016. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s president said the Islamic Republic could restore elements of its nuclear program that were halted under its landmark deal if world powers that signed the agreement don’t live up to their end of the bargain.

President Hassan Rouhani made the remarks televised on state TV on Wednesday, a day ahead of the one-year anniversary of the deal between Tehran and the United States and other world powers.

The deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of powers (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States) limited Tehran’s atomic program in return for the lifting of some international sanctions, which took effect in January.

Rouhani hailed the nuclear deal as widely beneficial, saying it promotes peace and stability and that violating it “will harm everyone.”

But he also assured Iranians that Iran is “completely ready” and able to restore its nuclear program quickly if other parties violate the deal.

Top Iranian negotiator Hamid Baeidinejad said that although the deal is holding, more needs to be done to ensure its full implementation.

“The total process has been relatively satisfactory despite the difficulties that we see in the implementation,” Baeidinejad told a press conference in Tehran.

“We believe that the deal has not been violated so far and efforts continue to resolve the remaining issues,” Baeidinejad said.

There has been some disappointment in Iran that the lifting of the sanctions has not yet led to significant investments, with many international investors and banks still wary of doing business with the Islamic Republic.

Despite the lifting of nuclear-related penalties, Washington and the European Union maintain some sanctions on Iran over its human rights record and ballistic missile testing.

Asked if Iran had oversold the deal to its people, Baeidinejad said: “We knew exactly what was agreed upon in the deal and what was not.”

He said Tehran “had more expectations on the removal of economic, banking and financial restrictions, but despite all these deficiencies there is a feeling of hope inside our country to remove these obstacles” through more talks.

“We will not agree to anything less than the full implementation of the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the agreement.

The agreement caused “great optimism” in Iran on “unrelated issues,” Baeidinejad said, but those expectations are “fortunately being balanced and adjusted to reality.”

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