In Iran standoff, Biden says US won’t unilaterally lift sanctions

US President Joe Biden has made clear he will not unilaterally lift sanctions against Iran, saying it must first adhere to its nuclear deal commitments despite demands on Sunday from the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader.

The exchange underscored the thorny diplomatic challenge ahead as Biden seeks to revive — without showing weakness — a key accord rejected by his predecessor Donald Trump.

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Asked in a CBS interview airing Sunday whether he would halt sanctions to convince Iran to return to the bargaining table, Biden offered a clear reply: “No.”

The journalist then asked if the Iranians would first have to stop enriching uranium, which drew an affirmative nod from Biden.

The clip was part of a longer interview to be aired later Sunday on CBS.

The landmark deal was reached in 2015 by the United States and other powers (China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain) following long negotiations with Iran aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons.

The deal has been hanging by a thread since Trump’s decision to withdraw from it in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Trump argued that the accord did not sufficiently restrict Iran’s nuclear program and he complained of its “destabilizing” activities in the region.

Trump resumed the US sanctions on Tehran that had been lifted through the accord, and he pressed reluctant allies to do the same.

Tehran a year later suspended its compliance with most key nuclear commitments.

The Biden administration has expressed willingness to return to the deal, but insisted that Tehran first resume full compliance.

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