TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's nuclear chief said Tuesday he hopes Tehran's landmark atomic deal with world powers will survive President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from it, warning the Islamic Republic's program stands ready to build advanced centrifuges and further enrich uranium.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Ali Akbar Salehi stressed Iran would be guided by “prudence and wisdom” when weighing whether to abandon the deal if European nations fail to protect it from Trump.
The U.S. withdrawal from the deal already has badly shaken Iran's anemic economy, crashing its currency, the rial. That likely will be compounded by U.S. sanctions coming in November that threaten Iran's oil exports, a major source of government funding.
All this puts further pressure on the administration of Iran's relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, to whom Salehi reports as one of his vice presidents. But Salehi dismissed out of hand the idea of caving to American demands to renegotiate the accord.
“Yes, we have our problems. Yes, the sanctions have caused some problems for us. But if a nation decides to enjoy political independence, it will have to pay the price,” Salehi said.
Salehi suggested that if the nuclear deal fell apart, Iran would react in stages. He suggested one step may be uranium enrichment going to “20 percent because this is our need.” He also suggested Iran could increase its stockpile of enriched uranium.