The United States has vowed that it will return to “strict compliance” with a 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers if Tehran does the same, as Iran’s leadership vowed “not to back down” and diplomacy continued to confront Tehran’s threat to curb cooperation with UN inspectors.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in a pre-recorded speech that Washington hopes to extend and bolster the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) that the previous U.S. administration abandoned in 2018.

“Working with allies and partners, we will also seek to lengthen and strengthen the JCPOA and address other areas of concern, including Iran’s destabilizing regional behavior and ballistic-missile development and proliferation.”

Earlier at the conference, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Iran to fully comply with the pact and said compliance was in Tehran’s interest.

Maas noted U.S. President Joe Biden’s stated readiness to rejoin the JCPOA, adding: “It is in Iran’s best interest to change course now, before the agreement is damaged beyond repair.”

Maas said that Germany expected “full compliance, full transparency, and full cooperation” from Iran with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose chief Rafael Grossi returned on February 21 from a trip to Tehran.

Iran on February 22 hailed the outcome of Grossi’s visit and a temporary agreement the two sides reached on site inspections as a “significant achievement.”

That deal has effectively bought time with inspections continuing as all sides try to salvage the agreement, which was pushed to the brink of collapse when former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018.

The United States and other governments have accused Iran of secretly trying to build a nuclear weapons capability, a charge that Tehran has consistently rejected despite years of what the IAEA said was obfuscation and deception.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was quoted by the state’s Press TV as vowing that his country “will not back down on the nuclear issues” at a late-night meeting with members of the powerful Assembly of Experts on February 21.

He reportedly said that Iran will never move toward the development of nuclear weapons.

“What prevents the Iranian Republic from building nuclear weapons is the Islamic way of thinking and principles, which prohibit production of all kinds of weapons, including nuclear or chemical, which would be used to massacre ordinary people,” Khamenei was quoted as saying, repeating a longtime claim by Iran’s leadership.

Tehran is demanding that Washington remove punishing sanctions Trump reimposed in 2018, while Washington has called on Iran to first return to all of its nuclear commitments.

“Iran must comply with its safeguards agreements with the IAEA and its international obligations,” Blinken said on February 22.

“The United States remains committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” the top U.S. diplomat said. “Diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal.”

Meanwhile the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, General Kenneth McKenzie, was quoted as warning Tehran against any provocation.

“I would think this would be a good time for everybody to behave soberly and cautiously, and see what happens,” McKenzie said during a visit to Oman, according to AFP. “I do believe we will be prepared for any eventuality, however.”

In the standoff, Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament has demanded that the country limit some inspections by the IAEA from February 23.

Grossi hammered out a temporary technical deal with Tehran during his visit, whereby Iran will continue to allow access to UN inspectors to its nuclear sites — but will for three months bar inspections of other, non-nuclear sites.

Grossi said afterwards that the “temporary solution” enables the IAEA to retain “a necessary degree of monitoring and verification work.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said on February 22 that the talks had “resulted in a very significant diplomatic achievement and a very significant technical achievement.”

Khatibzadeh stressed that the outcome was “within the framework of parliament’s binding law.”

Under the agreement reached over the weekend with the IAEA, Iran will temporarily suspend so-called “voluntary transparency measures” — notably inspections of non-nuclear sites, including military sites suspected of nuclear-related activity.

Tehran will for “three months record and keep the information of some activities and monitoring equipment” at such sites, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said.

This means that cameras will keep running at those sites, “but no footage will be given to the IAEA,” Khatibzadeh said.

The footage will be deleted after three months if the U.S. sanctions are not lifted, Iran’s atomic body has said.

Source » rferl