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Iran’s top diplomat: Tehran won’t accept longer and stronger nuclear deal

As country ups the ante on return to accord, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tells NY Times the 2015 deal ‘has a lot of harsh critics in Iran, but we accepted it’

In this August 3, 2012, photo, then-Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)
In this August 3, 2012, photo, then-Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that Tehran will not accept a United States-desired “longer and stronger deal” with world powers on its nuclear program.

Iran’s top diplomat made the comments on Friday to The New York Times, adding that the 2015 deal “has a lot of harsh critics in Iran, but we accepted it.”

US President Joe Biden has expressed willingness to return to the previous deal if Iran returns to compliance as well. He has also said that he would seek a stronger deal after the sides recommit to the previous accord.

But under the new hardline government in Tehran, Amir-Abdollahian rejected the second notion, while also saying that Iran would demand greater concessions to return to the deal than under its original terms — likely a non-starter for Washington.

With the talks yet to resume and Iran raising its price, officials in the Biden administration have sounded increasingly skeptical that a return to the accord former US president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 is possible.

The newspaper noted that according to expert estimations, with its current pace of uranium enrichment, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for a nuclear bomb with two months, if it wanted to — but it would need another 18 months at least to make a weapon, which would give the US, Israel or others time to react if it tried to do so.

TV cameras in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

On Saturday, Amir-Abdollahian seemed to backtrack from comments he made a day earlier when he stated that stalled talks would resume “very soon,” now saying instead that the West and Tehran have a different concept of the timeframe.

“People keep asking how soon is soon. Does it mean days, weeks or months?” said Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in remarks broadcast on state TV channel IRINN, cited by the Reuters news agency.

“The difference between Iranian and Western ‘soon’ is a lot. To us, ‘soon’ means really in the first opportune time – when our reviews [of the nuclear file] have been completed. What is important is our determination to return to the talks, but those that are serious and guarantee the Iranian nation’s rights and interests,” Amir-Abdollahian said.

A day earlier, Amir-Abdollahian had accused the United States of sending “contradictory messages” on reviving the deal.

The nuclear talks, brokered by the Europeans, seek the return of the US to the 2015 agreement trashed by Trump — as well as Iran’s return to full compliance.

When asked by reporters to explain why Iran was, for the first time, producing fuel enriched to a level that is close to weapons-grade, Amir-Abdollahian declined to answer, the Times said.

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