TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader vowed on Thursday that Iran will accelerate the development of its civilian nuclear program as the world’s major powers continue delicate negotiations in Vienna to revive Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal.
In a televised speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stressed the importance of nuclear energy to Iran, while reiterating that it has no interest in nuclear weapons.
Khamenei’s remarks appeared to be clearly aimed at the countries involved in the Vienna talks.
“Enemies are making cruel moves against our nuclear energy issue, (putting) sanctions on nuclear energy that they know is peaceful,” he said. “They do not want Iran to achieve this great and significant progress.”
The accord, which former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly four years ago, granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its atomic program. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, tweeted late Wednesday that the parties were “closer than ever” to an agreement.
But talks have repeatedly stalled in recent months as Iranian negotiators press hard-line demands, exasperating Western diplomats.
Khamenei, who so far has largely stayed silent on the ongoing negotiations, called claims that Iran was pursuing a bomb “nonsense,” saying they were meant to deprive Iran of its legitimate right to nuclear power.
“If we do not pursue (peaceful nuclear energy) today, tomorrow will be late,” he said.
Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is peaceful. But the country’s move to deviate from its obligations under the 2015 agreement has alarmed its longtime foe Israel and world powers.
Tehran has since started enriching uranium to a purity of 60 percent — a shorter technical step than the 90 percent needed to make an atomic bomb, and spinning centrifuges far more advanced than the protocol allows.