Raisi made the statement in an interview with the CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“In the beginning, we were not seeking 60% levels of enrichment. They (European states) trampled upon their commitments,” the Iranian president said.
“What the Islamic Republic of Iran did was in response to a breaking of commitment of the signatories to the (2015) agreement.”
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Mohammad Eslami announced in June that enriching uranium to the said purity level was in accordance with a December 2020 parliamentary law – the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions.
The law was passed with the purpose of removing anti-Iran sanctions as well as the production of radiopharmaceuticals and detectors, among other aims.
Earlier in the month, Reuters cited a confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) claiming that Iran’s stockpile of 60% enriched uranium continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace than in the previous quarter.
In the interview, Raisi categorically rejected the country’s enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade levels, saying, “It was officially announced that the action that we intend to take is not intended to reach nuclear weapons of any type or a military dimension of any type, but it is… a response for the lack of commitment demonstrated by the Europeans.”
He also reiterated Tehran’s long-standing conviction that the Islamic Republic does not plan to acquire a nuclear bomb.
The United States, under former President Donald Trump, abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and reinstated crippling sanctions that the agreement had lifted.
The talks to revive the 2015 deal kicked off in Vienna in April 2021, with the intention of removing anti-Iran sanctions and examining Washington’s seriousness in rejoining the JCPOA.
The discussions, however, have been at a standstill since August 2022 due to Washington’s refusal to remove all the sanctions imposed by the previous US administration.
The European Union, which acts as the coordinator of the talks, forwarded at the time a new proposal to the Islamic Republic in order to break the impasse. Iran submitted its response to the draft proposal on August 15, 2022, a week after the latest round of talks wrapped up in Vienna.
After submitting its response to the EU proposal, Tehran urged Washington to show “realism and flexibility” in order to reach an agreement. However, it took almost ten days for the administration of President Joe Biden to submit its response to Iran’s comments on the EU draft.
Iran blamed the failure of the JCPOA’s revival on the procrastination of the American side in providing an answer and said moving to the next stage would have been possible had the US government shown serious willpower and acted responsibly in its promises.