Biden: US won’t lift sanctions unless Iran stops enriching uranium

Washington, Feb 7 (efe-epa).- President Joe Biden confirmed that he will not lift sanctions on Tehran unless the Islamic government there stops enriching uranium, according to an excerpt of an interview that CBS will air later on Sunday.

When questioned by the interviewer whether the US will first lift sanctions on Iran to entice it to return to the negotiating table, Biden responded with a clear “No.”

After that, the journalist pressed the president, questioning whether for Washington lift sanctions the Iranians would first have to stop enriching uranium, to which Biden agreed by nodding his head.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the US and other world powers agreed to lift sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for its limiting its nuclear program, but former President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the pact in 2018 and reimposed those sanctions.

Last month, Iran started enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent purity, although the accord only allows it to enrich the nuclear fuel – which can also be used for nuclear weapons – to 3.67 percent.

Biden has said that, for the moment, he has no plans for the US to return to the accord.

On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said in a meeting with Iranian air force commanders and personnel that Tehran will return to the nuclear accord with the Western powers when the US lifts the sanctions.

During Biden’s interview, the US president also spoke about one of his other big foreign policy challenges: China.

The president said that he had not yet spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, because there had been no reason to call him.

“I probably spent more time with Xi Jinping, I’m told, than any world leader has, because I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president. Traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well,” said Biden.

When asked if he would have a lot to talk about with the Chinese leader, the president replied, “A whole lot to talk about,” adding, “And he’s very bright. 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. But … the question is, I’ve said to him all along, that we need to not have a conflict.”

Nevertheless, Biden went on to say that “there’s going to be extreme competition. And I’m not going to do it the way that he knows. And that’s because he’s sending signals as well. I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We’re going to focus on international rules of the road.”

US-Chinese relations soured during Trump’s presidency, with the then-US leader launching a trade war against the Asian giant in March 2018, a confrontation that then moved into the diplomatic and technology spheres, as well as other areas, and was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which Trump blamed on Beijing.

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