Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Monday that while he favors talks and diplomacy, these are impossible in the current situation, and so his country has chosen a path of “resistance only.”
“I favor talks and diplomacy but under current conditions, I do not accept it, as today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as telling leading religious figures.
His comments came hours after US President Donald Trump said that any provocations by Iran would be met with “great force,” while noting that he’s also willing to negotiate.
According to IRNA, Rouhani told the clerics that there was consensus among the leadership that Iran would stand up to the US and its sanctions.
However, he said Iran would not officially leave the nuclear deal because that would open it up to further sanctions.
“If we walked away from the JCPOA with the US provocative acts, then, in addition to the US, the UN and world would also impose sanctions on us,” he said, using an acronym for the official name of the deal.
Tensions have spiraled in recent days after the Trump administration sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Persian Gulf region, and withdrew nonessential personnel from Iraq, raising alarms over the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.
“We have no indication that anything’s happened or will happen. But if it does, it will be met obviously with great force,” said Trump, speaking to reporters as he left the White House en route to a rally in Pennsylvania. “We’ll have no choice.”
Despite saying there was no indication of a belligerent act from Iran, the president called the Islamic Republic “very hostile” and the “No. 1 provocateur of terror in this country.”
Trump had been downplaying the chances of potential conflict in recent days and again said he was willing to talk to Tehran.
Trump on Iran: We have no indication that anything's happened or will happen. But if it does, it will be met obviously with great force. We'll have no choice pic.twitter.com/XEZFyFjzzr
— POLITICO (@politico) May 20, 2019
“If they call we would certainly negotiate, but that’s going to be up to them,” Trump said. “I’d only want them to call if they’re ready. If they’re not ready, they don’t have to bother.”
Trump’s comments come after semi-official news agencies in Iran reported that the country has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium amid tensions with the US over the unraveling nuclear accord.
The Fars and Tasnim news agencies both reported that the production is of uranium enriched only to the 3.67 percent limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, far below the 20% to which Iran was enriching before the deal or the 90% required to produce nuclear weapons.
However, a quadrupling of production would mean that Iran likely will soon go beyond the stockpile limitation of 300 kilograms set by the deal.
Iran said it has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, of its decision. The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The crisis is rooted in Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord last year and impose sweeping sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration has criticized the 2015 accord for failing to rein in Tehran’s regional ambitions.
Earlier Monday, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with his visiting counterpart from Oman, Yusuf bin Alawi. The Gulf nation has in the past served as an intermediary between the United States and the Islamic Republic, including during the early stages of the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Overnight Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to warn Iran not to threaten the US or it will face its “official end.”
Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”
Trump did not elaborate, nor did the White House. However, the tweet came after a rocket landed less than a mile from the sprawling US Embassy in Baghdad in the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone Sunday night.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket launch.
Trump’s tweet was a “genocidal taunt,” according to Iran’s top diplomat, Zarif.
In his own message on Twitter, Zarif said Trump had been “goaded” into “genocidal taunts.”
He wrote that Trump “hopes to achieve what Alexander (the Great), Genghis (Khan) & other aggressors failed to do,” adding: “Iranians have stood tall for a millennia while aggressors all gone.”