Iran’s supreme leader vowed Wednesday to resist new U.S. sanctions and again rejected any negotiations with Washington, as the country’s atomic energy agency said it would accelerate its uranium-enrichment program on Thursday, breaching limits under a 2015 nuclear deal.

“Pressures by cruel enemies do not affect Iranians,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told judicial officials Wednesday, according to the supreme leader’s website. Calling the United States “the world’s most vicious regime,” he said, “Iranians have been wronged by oppressive sanctions but not weakened and will remain powerful.” He said the nation “won’t give up” and asserted that the Trump administration’s calls for negotiations reflected its failure to achieve its goals through pressure.

“They said, ‘Negotiate with us in order to progress.’ Yes! We do progress but without you,” Khamenei said. “Negotiations are their way of deceiving” Iran to get what Washington wants, he added. “If you surrender to them, you’re done!”

The remarks were another rebuff to President Trump, who expressed a desire Wednesday to avoid a military confrontation with Iran while also warning that if war did break out, “it wouldn’t last very long.” In an interview with the Fox Business Network, Trump also said he did not think Iran’s leadership is “smart.”

Trump last year pulled out of a nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration between Iran and six world powers including the United States. He has moved since then to reimpose crippling sanctions on Tehran as punishment for its ballistic missile program and intervention in Middle East conflicts, which were not part of the nuclear accord.

The latest round of sanctions, targeting the supreme leader himself and other top officials, was announced Monday following attacks on oil and petrochemical tankers that the United States has blamed on Iran, as well as the downing last week of a U.S. Navy surveillance drone by an Iranian missile over the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran called the additional sanctions “outrageous and idiotic,” prompting Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to retort in a television interview Wednesday: “That must mean they are working if they are this upset.”

In response to the increased U.S. pressure, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Wednesday that it would speed up its enrichment of uranium after a deadline Thursday for European countries to take action to preserve the nuclear deal.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the organization, indicated that at the end of Thursday’s deadline, Iran would exceed a limit of 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium that the country is allowed to possess under the nuclear agreement. That stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent is suitable for use as fuel in nuclear power plants but far short of the weapons-grade level of more than 90 percent needed for fissile material in a nuclear bomb.

In addition, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said Iran would take unspecified new steps on July 7 to reduce its commitments under the nuclear deal, Iranian news media reported.

Source » washingtonpost