Amid Negotiations, Iran’s Supreme Leader Pushes Nuclear Energy Progress

Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday promised his country would step up development of its civilian nuclear program as world powers resume complicated talks in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

In a televised address, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pushed for the importance of nuclear energy for Iran, while reiterating that it is not interested in nuclear weapons.

Khamenei’s remarks appear to be clearly aimed at the countries involved in the talks in Vienna.

“The enemies are taking draconian steps against our nuclear energy issue, (imposing) sanctions on nuclear energy which they know are peaceful,” he said. “They don’t want Iran to achieve this big and significant progress.”

The deal, abandoned by former US President Donald Trump nearly four years ago, provides sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, tweeted late Wednesday that the parties involved were “closer than ever” to reaching a deal.

The talks have repeatedly hit a stalemate in recent months, as Iranian negotiators press hard-line demands, much to the annoyance of Western diplomats.

Khamenei, who has so far been largely silent, called claims that Iran was building a bomb “nonsense,” and said they were meant to strip Iran of its legal right to nuclear power.

“If we don’t explore (peaceful nuclear energy) now, tomorrow will be too late,” he said.

Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful. However, his avoidance of various obligations as stated in the 2015 agreement has worried his arch-enemy, Israel, and the world’s powerful powers.

Iran has since gone on to enrich its uranium to 60 percent purity – a step closer to the 90 percent purity required to create a bomb – and spin centrifuges far more sophisticated than what is allowed under the deal. [rd/em]