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Iran To Restart Nuclear Program 'At Much Greater Speed' If U.S. Quits Deal


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (file photo)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran will resume its nuclear program "at a much greater speed" if the United States withdraws from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord.

"If the decision comes from President [Donald] Trump to officially withdraw from the deal, then Iran will take decisions that have been provided for under the JCPOA and outside JCPOA," Zarif said, referring to the 2015 agreement.

The Iranian foreign minister, who is in the United States to attend a United Nations meeting, was speaking in an interview to be broadcast on April 22 on the CBS TV Face the Nation program.

"We have put a number of options for ourselves and those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities," Zarif said.

Zarif stressed, though, in separate remarks to reporters in New York on April 21 that Iran was not seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb.

But he said Tehran's "probable" response should the United States quit the accord would be to restart production of enriched uranium -- a key ingredient to the making of a nuclear weapon.

"America never should have feared Iran producing a nuclear bomb, but we will pursue vigorously our nuclear enrichment," he said.

Iran has always claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Trump has said Iran is violating the "spirit" of the 2015 accord by continuing to test ballistic missiles, sponsoring militant violence in the region, and by supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The deal provides Tehran with sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Trump has called on European powers to "fix" what he says are the "terrible flaws" of the agreement, demanding that new restrictions to be imposed on Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

Trump has set a May 12 deadline to either improve or scrap the accord, which was negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The other powers in the deal -- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia -- have urged Washington to remain in the pact, saying it is the best way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

A senior U.S. administration official has told reporters that Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss the nuclear agreement when they meet at the White House on April 23.

In an interview on April 22, Macron said that he had no "Plan B" for the Iran nuclear deal and that the United States should stay in the agreement as long as there is no better option.

Macron told Fox News that he wanted to "complete" the nuclear accord by addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program and working to contain Iran's influence in the region.

Meanwhile, Zarif also said in the interview that Washington must undergo "a change in attitude" before negotiations can begin over several U.S. citizens being held prisoner in Iran.

Negotiations are a "possibility, certainly from a humanitarian perspective, but it requires a change of attitude," Zarif said.

"It is important...for the [Trump] administration to show the ability to engage in a respectful dialogue," Zarif said.

At least five Americans are held being in Tehran and have been sentenced to prison in Iran on espionage-related charges.

With reporting by CBS, AP, and AFP
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