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Rouhani Accuses Opponents of Attempting to Delay Lifting Sanctions

IRAN -- Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks at a meeting in Tehran, December 9, 2020

While reiterating his opposition to the "Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions" plan approved by Iran's Majlis parliament, President Hassan Rouhani said he would not allow lawmakers to "delay the end of sanctions."

At a news conference on Monday, Rouhani stressed that President Donald Trump and some leaders inside Iran wanted to destroy the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but failed.

Responding to a question about setting conditions for the U.S. to return to the JCPOA, he said such actions "would delay lifting the sanctions."

If the U.S. returned to its previous commitments, Rouhani noted, the Iranian government would fully comply with its obligations under the nuclear deal.

Rouhani also rejected any U.S. precondition for returning to the JCPOA, asserting that missile and regional issues had nothing to do with the nuclear deal and were "non-negotiable."

The "Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions" parliamentary bill was approved by Majlis on December 2, and the Guardian Council has also endorsed it. Based on the motion, the Iranian government is obliged within two months after the parliamentary bill's ratification to end its voluntary implementation of the International Atomic Energy Organization's Additional Protocol.

The Protocol allows IAEO's inspectors to visit any nuclear facility in Iran without prior notice.

Referring to Majlis' motion, Rouhani said the government was compiling a bylaw to implement it. However, the Iranian President insisted that bylaws would help to lift the sanctions.

"The government does not consider the recent law passed by the parliament useful," he said. "But I told the relevant ministers and deputies to prepare bylaws for its implementation."

Furthermore, Rouhani noted, "I hope that by the end of this week, and next Wednesday or Sunday, the government will present its bylaws and approve them according to its interpretation. ---The title of the law refers to lifting the sanctions, not to delay them."

Still, according to the parliament's motion, the government will be obliged to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol on January 31, 2021, which could create a significant obstacle on the way for the Biden government to return to the JCPOA.

"There are some who want to delay the lift of sanctions, but we will not consent to this for a minute, and we will stand against them. These sanctions must be broken, and this is the right of the people. The United States must return to the commitments it has already made. As we said before, if everyone returns to their full commitments, we will return to our full commitments," Rouhani told the news conference.

Earlier Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that "some friends" were signaling to the United States that "you can work better with us" and that the Rouhani government had "no power" and should not be a party to negotiations.

In recent weeks, senior Rouhani administration officials have repeatedly accused their fundamentalist opponents of trying to complicate the Tehran-Washington negotiation process and delay lifting the sanctions. The fundamentalists are attempting to block any compromise with Washington until the next Iranian presidential election in 2021, Rouhani's camp maintains.

After four rounds of extentions of the JCPOA -- twice by President Obama, and twice by his successor, Donald Trump -- the United States withdrew from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, before imposing batches of devastating sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration has repeatedly stated that it wants a more comprehensive agreement with Tehran that includes, in addition to nuclear activities, Iran's missile program and a definition of the nation's regional role.

Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected any talks with the Trump administration, saying they are unwilling to renegotiate the JCPOA. The next U.S. administration should lift sanctions and unconditionally return to the nuclear deal, they assert.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said he is committed to returning to the JCPOA, but that negotiation with Iran will be "tough."

He has also stressed the need to negotiate the future of Iran's nuclear program and missile program.

Nonetheless, Rouhani told the news conference that he had not heard of Biden calling for a more substantial deal with Iran.

"The US president-elect had been present before and at the time of the signing of the JCPOA. At the time, there were requests for negotiation on Iran's missile program, but they were rejected. We told them that our missile-program was unnegotiable, and Mr. Biden is aware of it," Rouhani maintained.