Joe Biden takes hardball stance on Iran nuclear programme as tensions run high

Iran: Expert warns time ‘running out’ to stop uranium enrichment

The news comes after both countries signalled a willingness to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, which was signed in 2015. Under President Donald Trump, the US pulled out of the deal in 2018 and slapped sanctions on Iran. Iran subsequently stopped complying with the deal’s terms.

Joe Biden has said he will move to return the US to the deal, but the nations have hit an impasse over which country needs to make the first step.

Speaking in an interview with CBS News yesterday, Mr Biden was asked whether he would “lift sanctions first in order to get Iran back to the negotiating table”.

The new US president replied: “No.”

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However, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the US would have to lift the sanctions first before Iran returns to the deal.

The JCPOA is an agreement between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

It aims to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of economic sanctions on the nation.

READ: Iran test-launches their ‘largest’ rocket ahead of Biden’s revival of new nuclear deal

Iran has been increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium, which can be used in both nuclear reactors as well as nuclear weapons.

In January this year, the country said it had resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, which marked its biggest breach of the JCPOA until that time, the BBC reported.

Under the deal, Iran should only enrich uranium to a purity of 3.67 percent, and there are also limits on how much it can stockpile.

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Weapons-grade uranium is typically enriched to more than 90 percent, though experts say it is easier to get from 20 percent to 90 percent than it is to get from low concentrations to 20 percent, the BBC adds.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said in January its 20 percent enrichment process followed “years of non-compliance by several other JCPOA participants.”

He added: “Our measures are fully reversible upon full compliance by all.”

In the CBS interview, Mr Biden also discussed his relationship with China.

He said he had not spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took over the White House.

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