Tehran- The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has once again dismissed claims that the country seeks nuclear bombs, saying the fatwa (religious decree) issued by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei against weapons of mass destruction sets Iran’s course of action.
In an interview on Tuesday with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), an American public broadcaster and television program distributor, Ali-Akbar Salehi was asked whether anyone in the Iranian government ever raises the issue of the benefits of nuclear bombs as “effective deterrence” against nuclear-armed powers, despite the country’s official assertion that its nuclear work has no military dimensions.
“You see, the final wording on this is by the Supreme Leader. Once the Supreme Leader has issued the fatwa, that fatwa is not only a religious fatwa, but it is something, a decree,” he replied. “It’s not that no one can say. You can speak your mind. I mean you can you speak whatever you wish. But, in reality, when it comes to action, we do what the fatwa says. We do what the decree says.”
Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa bans the production, possession and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
Iran’s nuclear chief also drew a distinction between a nuclear bomb and a long-range missile, saying the latter is used to “hit the places that you wish to hit.”
“But nuclear bomb, as it was used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, inflicted harm on innocent people; 200,000 lives were evaporated in matters of seconds,” he added.
Elsewhere, Salehi complained that although US President Joe Biden has “promised to sort of come back to the JCPOA, … he has not yet delivered" on that promise.
He was referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal that Iran signed with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — in 2015 to show to the world the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.
Three years later, however, former US president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled his country out of the JCPOA and reinstated the anti-Iran sanctions that had been lifted by the accord.
The new US administration, under President Joe Biden, has indicated its willingness to rejoin the JCPOA, but conditioned that on Tehran’s resumption of the commitments it has suspended under the accord in response to the US withdrawal and the other parties’ failure to meet their end of the bargain.
But Tehran says Washington should unconditionally remove all the sanctions imposed under Trump in a verifiable manner before it returns to full compliance with the JCPOA.
Salehi said Iran’s nuclear issue is “not really complicated,” and that “the one who has left the JCPOA has to come back first.”
“We have already the deal, the JCPOA deal. It’s a deal that was negotiated for over two years. And the US administration at one time felt that they want to leave the deal. You are the one who has left the deal, and you have to come back to the deal, and then we sit on the table within the framework of the 5-plus-one and talk whatever issues that are deemed to be talked about.”
Last month, Iran stopped the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement, which stipulates enhanced international access to nuclear sites and snap inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The measure adds to Iran’s previous steps away from the JCPOA.
It followed a temporary bilateral technical understanding between the IAEA and the AEOI, under which the latter would continue to use cameras to record information at its nuclear sites for three months, but it would retain the information exclusively. If the US sanctions are lifted completely within that period, Iran will provide the footage to the UN nuclear watchdog, otherwise it will be deleted forever.
Salehi said, “We have not restricted the IAEA inspections in Iran. But the other part of the voluntary agreement that we had committed ourselves within the JCPOA, and that was the Additional Protocol, those, we have put aside.”
The IAEA cameras, he noted, keep on recording “whatever they want to record. But the IAEA will not have access to the information. For up to three months, if the JCPOA is back, they will be given [to] the administration.”
He also confirmed that the recording will be trashed if the nuclear deal is not back, emphasizing, “It is easy to resolve the issue. Come back to the JCPOA, and [do] not let this happen.”
Separately on Tuesday, 140 Congress members from both major parties sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on the administration to pursue a “comprehensive” approach to Iran that would address the Islamic Republic’s missile program and regional activity in addition to the nuclear issue.
“Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) entered into force, Iran has continued to test ballistic missile technology that could potentially be applied to nuclear capable missiles, funded and supported terrorism throughout the Middle East, and engaged in cyber attacks to disrupt the global economy,” they alleged.
Aksed about the letter, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “Look, so this letter and the ideas put forward in the letter are in important ways very consistent with the approach that we have laid out. And let me just remind you of that approach. At its core, the first step is what we have short-termed – or what we have shorthanded “compliance for compliance,” the idea that if Iran resumes its full compliance with the JCPOA, resumes its commitments with the JCPOA, the United States would do the same. We would seek to lengthen and strengthen the deal.”
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