Iran warns Biden as it pushes ahead with plan to cut nuclear inspections

Tehran – President Joe Biden is pursuing the same policy against Iran as his predecessor, the country’s foreign minister said on Sunday, two days before Tehran threatened to curtail inspections of its nuclear facilities by the United Nations.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with the English-language news agency Press TV that former President Donald Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” is still being applied to Iran.

“The United States is addicted to sanctions, but it should know that Iran will not give in to the pressure,” said Zarif. “We are not looking for nuclear weapons.”

He also reiterated Tehran’s stance that Washington should take the first step to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that exempted Iran from sanctions in exchange for agreeing to curb its nuclear program.

Trump withdrew the US from the deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in May 2018 and again imposed harsh sanctions on Iran in an attempt to isolate the country and drastically cut its oil exports.

In response, Iran began violating some of the deal’s nuclear borders, and in December the country’s lawmakers approved a law providing for this suspend some of the inspections in the United States of the nuclear facilities, if the signatories do not grant sanctions relief by February 23.

Iran will also stop implementing an additional protocol that will allow United States inspectors to conduct more intrusive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Zarif insisted that this would not mean Iran would abandon the deal, but said the US has yet to lift sanctions to save the pact. “All of our steps are reversible,” he said.

The Biden government announced last week that it was ready to hold talks with other world powers and Iran to discuss the deal, but the two countries divided over who should take the first step to revive the deal.

Zarif’s comparison of Biden’s approach to Trump’s tactics against Iran signals dissatisfaction with the current pace and stance of the Biden government, said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a Middle East security researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank.

“There was optimism that the Biden government would have acted faster on Iran,” said Tabrizi. “Instead, a month later, it just announced its willingness to take part in talks last week – and for conversations to turn into something concrete, it will likely take some time.”

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Meanwhile, the head of the United States’ nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, met with the Iranian nuclear chief on Sunday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week the visit was aimed at “finding a friendly solution for the IAEA to continue essential screening activities in the country”.

Grossi is expected to inform the media about the results of the talks later on Sunday.

Before the meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iranian state television on Saturday that the purpose of Grossi’s visit was to minimize “possible damage” to the cooperation between Tehran and the IAEA.

He added that nuclear inspections will be reduced by 20 to 30 percent after Feb.23, but will continue.

Amin Khodadadi reported from Tehran, Yuliya Talmazan from London.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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