VIENNA—Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hinted this week that Iran would decide to fully pursue its nuclear program in a way “harsher than what they [the United States can] imagine” if Western powers fail to uphold any nuclear agreement expected to be finalized in the coming days.
Rouhani’s comments come as negotiators in Vienna struggle to solve disagreements over a range of issues concerning the future of Tehran’s nuclear program. The ongoing disputes prevented the sides from finalizing the agreement before a self-imposed June 30 deadline.
Talks are now expected to continue through July 9.
“If they [the P5+1 negotiating countries] breach the [nuclear] agreement, we immediately go back to the old path, harsher than what they imagine,” Rouhani was quoted as saying this week in Persian language media reports that were independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.
Some have interpreted these comments as Rouhani threatening to boost a range of nuclear efforts that Western powers suspect have been used to construct a nuclear weapon.
Iran continues to insist in the talks that it be allowed to continue enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, and also renew efforts to research ballistic weapons, which could be used to carry a nuclear payload.
The Islamic Republic also continues to receive billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which has helped to reinvigorate the country’s economy and potentially dissuade it from inking a comprehensive deal that U.S. leaders view as helpful.
Iranian officials claimed on Wednesday that the country’s central bank had repatriated 13 tons of gold that had been frozen in South Africa.
Speaking about the extension in talks, Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted as saying, "We have our own sense of deadline."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Kerry continued to hold one-on-one meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, according to the State Department.