SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday that Iran was weeks away from the ability to produce the fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon.
He told NBC during an interview that it could be only “a matter of weeks” if Iran continues to lift restraints in the 2015 nuclear deal that the United States pulled out of under President Donald Trump.
He also said the Biden administration would return to the Iran nuclear provided Tehran return to compliance and then negotiate a “longer and stronger” accord.
The 2015 accord lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its disputed nuclear programme but after Trump’s withdrawal, Iran violated its conditions in a step-by-step response to Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy.
Iran has repeatedly said it can quickly reverse those violations if U.S. sanctions are removed.
In December, Iran’s hardline-dominated parliament passed legislation that forces the government to harden its nuclear stance if U.S. sanctions were not eased within two months.
Earlier this month, Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20% fissile strength at its underground Fordow nuclear plant, a level Tehran achieved before the 2015 accord.
It had earlier breached the deal’s 3.67% limit on the purity to which it can refine uranium, but it had only gone up to 4.5% so far, well short of the 20% level and of the 90% needed to fuel an atomic bomb.
The new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the deal but only after Tehran resumes full compliance with its terms.