Iran's top atomic official says the country would not "retreat" over its nuclear technology and could reverse its commitments to suspend high-level uranium enrichment "within hours" if the West violated its own pledges, the official IRNA agency reported.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, was speaking Monday to a gathering of Iranian air force officials about ongoing talks with the West over the country's nuclear program.
Recent reports have suggested that a provisional accord with the West that would ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on nuclear activity have strained relations between the moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani and hardline elements such as the powerful Revolutionary Guards.
Salehi said Iran had agreed to suspend 20% uranium enrichment for six months, but only "with an emphatic recognition that we have an enrichment right at any level or to any extent."
He said that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had said "America says one thing and does something else in secret, so they intend ... to disrupt our internal unity and sow discord in our society." Ayatollah Khamenei he said, was "entirely informed" of the country's nuclear affairs and set the "red lines" in talks with the West.
Meanwhile, the deputy-foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran would retaliate after the U.S. Treasury Department announced punitive measures on Feb. 6 against firms and individuals violating current sanctions on Iran. Araqchi said the move was not a violation of the text signed last month in Geneva, but against "the spirit of cooperation, goodwill and agreement set out" the accords.
He denied Iran wants to reconcile itself with the United States, as reports have suggested. "Our goal is not to reach a friendship pact. Our enmity with America remains in place. We have absolutely not engaged in the normalization of ties. The Geneva agreement seeks to manage one of the issues of discord between" Iran and Western powers, he said.
photo of Ali Akbar Salehi (securityconference.de)