Iran's Rouhani says dialogue with world difficult but 'possible'

Iran’s president said Thursday dialogue with the world remained “possible” despite high tensions with the United States, and stressed that Tehran was working daily “to prevent military confrontation or war”. 

The country attacked US military targets in Iraq on January 8 to retaliate against Washington’s targeted killing of a key Iranian general five days earlier in Baghdad, at a time when both are also locked in a bitter dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The government is working daily to prevent military confrontation or war,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech, adding that dialogue with the international community was difficult but remained “possible”.

Tehran ordered the attack against the US military targets in Iraq on January 8 in retaliation to Washington’s assassination of a key Iranian general five days earlier in Baghdad, at a time when both are also locked in a bitter dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile strike targeting Iraqi military bases housing US forces early last Wednesday, just before an anti-aircraft battery mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing all 176 people on board.

European powers who are signatories to the JCPOA Iran's  nuclear deal have invoke a section of the deal which may lead to further economic sanctions against Tehran.

Britain, France and Germany, the three European Union signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal on Tuesday triggered the accord’s dispute mechanism to stop Iran violating the pact and ratcheting up pressure on the Islamic Republic.

The launching of the dispute mechanism marked a last-ditch effort between the European states and Iran to resolve their differences through talks, while also starting a process that could bring back punishing United Nations sanctions on Tehran.

Rouhani, while saying he is working daily to prevent war, said Thursday the country is now enriching more uranium than it was before a 2015 deal with world powers that was supposed to scale back its nuclear activities, and in particular enrichment as relations between Tehran and Washington go through a new period of maximum tension.

“We are enriching more uranium than before the deal was reached,” Rouhani said in a televised speech according to the Reuters news agency. “Pressure has increased on Iran but we continue to progress.”

Rouhani said: “The government is working daily to prevent a military confrontation or war,” he said, insisting that though dialogue between Iran and the world was difficult, it was still “possible.”

The 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, seeks to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon — something Iran insists it does not want to do — by putting curbs on its atomic program in exchange for economic incentives.

On Wednesday, in response to the European countries triggering the dispute mechanism, Rouhani appeared to threaten European soldiers in the Middle East.

“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” he said, without elaborating.

The nuclear agreement has been on life support since US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out in 2018, triggering sanctions that have hurt Iran’s moribund economy, and in particular its key oil exports. Since then, Tehran has gradually rolled back its commitment to the deal, upping its enrichment actions and installing new centrifuges to speed up the process. Experts warn that Iran’s measures are reducing the breakout time it needs to produce a nuclear weapon.

Washington says the original pact was insufficient and should be renegotiated because it didn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its involvement in regional conflicts. The US has said it is prepared to hold talks with Iran without preconditions, but Tehran has insisted that there be some sanctions relief before it will sit down at the table.

Source: AFP /TOI /Reuters

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