US President Biden says Washington will not lift sanctions on Tehran until it shows compliance to 2015 nuclear deal. Tehran wants Washington to lift sanctions first before it returns to strict compliance with the pact.
US President Joe Biden has said he won't lift sanctions against Iran as long as the Islamic republic is not adhering to its nuclear deal commitments.
Asked whether he would halt sanctions to convince Iran to return to the bargaining table, Biden offered a clear reply in a CBS interview aired on Sunday: "No."
Asked if Iran had to stop enriching uranium first, Biden nodded.
It was not clear exactly what he meant, as Iran is permitted to enrich uranium under the 2015 nuclear deal within certain limits.
Earlier on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran receiving compensation from the United States for the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal was not a "pre-condition" for reviving the agreement.
Zarif said Iran has February 21 deadline to cease abiding by additional protocol.
He said that Iran ceasing to apply additional protocol will not mean the window is fully shut on the nuclear deal, adding Iranian actions are reversible.
On Saturday, Zarif urged Washington to act fast to return to the nuclear accord, pointing out that legislation passed by the Iranian parliament obliges the government to harden its nuclear stance if Washington doesn't ease sanctions by the February 21 deadline.
Iran 'will not turn back from' its policy
Also on Sunday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US must "completely lift" sanctions first, followed by verification by Tehran, before the Islamic republic returns to its nuclear deal commitments.
"If they want Iran to return to its commitments ... America must completely lift sanctions, and not just in words or on paper," Khamenei said in a televised speech to air force commanders.
"They must be lifted in action, and then we will verify and see if they have been properly lifted, and then return," he added.
According to Khamenei, Iran has "a right to set conditions for the continuation" of the deal as it has upheld its end, unlike the US and the three European members of the deal – Britain, France and Germany – who have "violated all their commitments".
"No one in the Islamic republic cares for the nonsense claimed by those not entitled to anything," he said.
Khamenei insisted that the condition set by Tehran for the US is Iran's "definite policy".
Iran "will not turn back from" it, he said.
Nuke deal hangs by thread
The 2015 landmark deal has been hanging by a thread since former US president Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from it in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Tehran a year later suspended its compliance with most key nuclear commitments to the deal.
The Biden administration has expressed willingness to return to the deal but insisted that Tehran first resume full compliance.
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On January 4, Iran announced it has stepped up its uranium enrichment process to 20 percent purity, far above the 3.67 percent level permitted by the deal, but far below the amount required for an atomic bomb.
'Extreme competition' with China
Meanwhile, Biden anticipated the US rivalry with China will take the form of "extreme competition" rather than conflict between the two world powers.
Biden said in the CBS interview that he has not spoken with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping since he became US president.
"He's very tough. He doesn't have – and I don't mean it as a criticism, just the reality – he doesn't have a democratic, small D, bone in his body," Biden said.