Iran’s supreme leader criticises ‘stubborn’ US in stalled nuclear talks

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks broadcast by state television that ‘trust in the West does not work’.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran’s supreme leader called the US “stubborn” in stalled nuclear talks in Vienna, signalling likely challenges ahead in efforts to revive its tattered atomic accord with world powers.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s remarks come as his hard-line protege, president-elect Ebrahim Raisi, is poised to be sworn in next week as the head of the country’s civilian government and as talks on reviving the deal remain stalled in Vienna.

While Mr Raisi has said he wants to return to the accord – which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions – Mr Khamenei seemingly called for a more adversarial approach in his remarks.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

They also appeared to describe outgoing President Hassan Rouhani’s eight-year government as naive for its approach in reaching the 2015 agreement as its officials sat before him.

“Others should use your experiences. This experience is a distrust of the West,” Mr Khamenei said in remarks broadcast by state television.

“In this government, it was shown up that trust in the West does not work.”

He added: “Westerners do not help us, they hit wherever they can.”

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration earlier criticised Iran for saying America had delayed a possible prisoner-swap deal, calling it “an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse”.

French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von Der Muhll also told journalists on Monday that it was “urgent for Iran to return to the negotiating table”.

“Through its actions, Iran continues to exacerbate the nuclear situation,” she said.

“If it continues down this path, not only will it delay the moment when an agreement might be reached, providing for the lifting of sanctions, but it could compromise the very possibility of concluding the Vienna talks and restoring the deal.”

In his remarks on Wednesday, Mr Khamenei described American negotiators as verbally promising to lift sanctions, but said any return to the nuclear deal must “include a sentence” on negotiating on other issues.

“By putting this sentence, they want to provide an excuse for their further interventions on the principle of (the deal) and missile programme and regional issues,” the leader said.

“If Iran refuses to discuss them, they will say that you have violated the agreement and the agreement is over.”

Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium gas to 3.67% purity, which can be used in nuclear power plants but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.

It also put a hard cap on Iran’s uranium stockpile to 300 kilograms (661 pounds).

Tehran also committed to using only 5,060 of its first-generation centrifuges, the devices that spin the uranium gas to enrich it.

Then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018.

Today, Iran has broken all the limits it agreed to under the deal.

It now enriches small amounts of uranium up to 63% purity, its highest level ever.

It also spins far more advanced centrifuges and more of them than allowed under the accord, worrying nuclear nonproliferation experts, despite Tehran insisting its programme is peaceful.

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