President Hassan Rouhani hinted on Monday that Iran could remain in the 2015 nuclear agreement even if the United States dropped out as European powers vowed to stand by deal in the wake a possible US walkout.
Rouhani said the Islamic Republic had been preparing for every possible scenario, including a deal without Washington – which would still include the other signatories that remain committed to it – or no deal at all.
"We are not worried about America's cruel decisions ... We are prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week," Rouhani said during a meeting with officials in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Monday.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out by not extending sanctions waivers when they expire on May 12, unless European signatories of the accord fix what he calls its “terrible flaws”.
Under the agreement with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, Iran strictly limited uranium enrichment capacity in exchange for received relief from sanctions, most of which were rescinded in January 2016.
"If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories ... In that case, getting rid of America's mischievous presence will be fine for Iran," Rouhani said.
"If they want to make sure that we are not after a nuclear bomb, we have said repeatedly that we are not and we will not be... but if they want to weaken Iran and limit its influence whether in the region or globally, Iran will fiercely resist," he said.
"Today we are telling the world that if you are worried about Iran's access to nuclear bomb, we have completely allayed this concern in the JCPOA and the deal ensures that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons," Rouhani said using the deal’s official name which stands for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Rouhani said the US would regret any decision to leave the deal.
Iran has warned that it would ramp up its nuclear activities if the accord collapses to achieve a more advanced level than before 2015.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that Tehran’s “fierce reaction to a violation of the nuclear deal with major powers will not be pleasant for America”.
"Quitting the JCPOA will definitely lead to the isolation of the Americans in the international arena. So the Americans will not benefit from such a decision."
The top diplomat said Washington has already violated the landmark accord, indicating that the US is not reliable.
"The Islamic Republic has so far observed the JCPOA and is serious about it, but the Americans did not adhere to the deal which is indicative of their unreliability," Zarif said.
He also said a possible withdrawal from the agreement is one of the options Iran is considering.
Britain, France and Germany remain committed to the accord and want to open talks on Iran's ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 – when pivotal provisions of the deal expire – and its role in the Middle East.
Iran repeatedly ruled out reducing its sway across the region, as demanded by the United States and its European allies. Tehran says its missile capabilities are purely defensive and nuclear activities only civilian in nature.
Whatever Trump decides, France, Britain and Germany will stick to the deal because it is the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb, French Foreign Minister Yean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday after meeting his German counterpart.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the deal, which is being policed by UN nuclear inspectors, "makes the world safer", and would do everything possible to uphold it, warning that there was a risk of escalation were it to be canceled.
“We don’t think there is any justifiable reason to pull out of this agreement and we continue to make the case for it to our American friends,” Maas said during a joint news conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“We’ll deal with the (US) decision but like Jean-Yves said, we want to adhere to this agreement,” Maas added.
Le Drian said France, Britain and Germany would keep to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran irrespective of the United States’ decision later this week because it is the best way to avoid nuclear proliferation.
“We are determined to save this deal because this accord safeguards against nuclear proliferation,” Le Drian said.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, now in Washington for talks, appealed to Trump not to end the agreement. “It has weaknesses, certainly, but I am convinced they can be remedied,” Johnson wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times.
“Indeed at this moment Britain is working alongside the Trump administration and our French and German allies to ensure that they are," he said in a commentary in The New York Times.
The foreign secretary said he saw no advantage in losing the deal and only Tehran would benefit from exiting it.
"I am sure of one thing: every available alternative is worse. The wisest course would be to improve the handcuffs rather than break them."
The UN nuclear watchdog says it is maintaining the "world's most robust verification regime" in Iran and has repeatedly said Tehran is complying with the deal terms.
Even if Trump rejects a possible remedy being worked out by US and European officials and decides to bring back sanctions, the most drastic US measures targeting Iran's oil sales will not immediately resume.
There are at least two avenues potentially offering more time for talks after May 12.
The agreement has a dispute resolution clause that provides at least 35 days to consider a claim that any party has violated its terms. That can be extended if all parties agree.
And if Trump restores the core US sanctions, under US law he must wait at least 180 days before reimposing penalties on banks of nations that do not slash purchases of Iranian oil.
Meanwhile, a top US Republican warned that it would be a mistake for Trump to abandon the Iran nuclear deal because it would diminish Washington’s leverage over Tehran.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told 'Fox News Sunday' that he “would counsel against” Trump scrapping the nuclear deal.
Reuters, Press TV and Fox News contributed to this story.