LONDON: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that his government should be ready to “set aside” the 2015 nuclear deal if it is no longer in the country’s national interests.
“The JCPOA (nuclear deal) is not the objective, it is only a means,” he said in a meeting with the cabinet, according to his website.
“Naturally, if we reach the conclusion that it is no longer maintaining our national interests, we will put it aside.”
Khamenei said talks should continue with Europe, which is trying to salvage the 2015 agreement despite the withdrawal of the United States.
But he said the Iranian government “must not pin hope on the Europeans for issues such as the JCPOA or the economy”.
“We must examine their promises with scepticism,” he added.
Khamenei reiterated that Iran would not engage in any negotiations with the administration of US President Donald Trump, despite his offer of unconditional talks.
“(The Americans) want to say they can bring anyone, even the Islamic republic, to the negotiating table. But as I have previously said in detail, no negotiations with them will take place,” Khamenei said.
Meanwhile, Iranian lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against the education minister on Wednesday, stepping up pressure on President Hassan Rouhani who is under attack from parliament over his handling of the economy following new US sanctions.
Khamenei, meeting with Rouhani and his cabinet on Wednesday, told the government to work “day and night” to resolve economic problems.
“We need to be strong in the economic field... The officials should work hard day and night to resolve the problems,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television.
The impeachment move came only three days after lawmakers sacked the minister of economy and finance blaming him for the collapse of the rial currency and surging unemployment. They had, weeks earlier, dismissed the labour minister.
Another motion, signed by 70 lawmakers, aims to impeach the minister of industry, mines and business.
Rouhani won two landslide elections on a platform of economic reform and opening Iran up to the outside world, and his pragmatic supporters have a majority in the parliament.
But his reputation and political influence have taken a sharp hit as his promised economic gains have failed to materialise.
He is, in particular, facing a backlash at home since Trump in May pulled out of an international accord that had curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief. Washington has imposed sanctions on the acquisition of dollars by Iran and it will reimpose sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports and banking sector in November. — Reuters