Rouhani: Purchase of Iran oil to ease situation
President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday ruled out holding any bilateral talks with the United States and warned of further reduction in Iran's commitments to a nuclear deal within days.
In an address to Parliament, Rouhani said any dialogue with the US would have to fall within the framework of the group of major powers that agreed the landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2015.
Rouhani also said Iran was ready to further cut its commitments to the accord "in the coming days" if current negotiations with European nations yield no results by Thursday.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal last year in May and began reimposing tough sanctions.
The arch-foes were on the cusp of confrontation in June when Iran downed a US spy drone in the Persian Gulf and Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before canceling them at the last minute.
France has been leading efforts to calm the situation, with President Emmanuel Macron expressing hope during G7 talks in late August of organizing a meeting between Rouhani and Trump.
“Maybe there has been a misunderstanding. We've said it several times and we repeat it – no decision has ever been taken to hold bilateral talks with the US and there has been a lot of offers for talks but our answer will always be negative," Rouhani said.
"In principle, we don't want bilateral talks with the United States," he told Parliament at a session convened to approve his picks for two ministerial posts.
"If the United States lifts all sanctions... it would be possible to talk (to them) during 5+1 meetings as in the past," he said, referring to the powers involved in negotiating the 2015 deal.
"We have received several proposals (to have talks with the United States) and our answer has always been negative."
Iran has riposted by scaling back its nuclear commitments in response to the US withdrawal from the deal, which gave it the promise of relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
It has already ramped up since last May its uranium enrichment and stockpiles, and Rouhani said Tuesday a "third step will be enacted in the coming days" unless the remaining parties to the deal honor their own commitments.
"If by Thursday these negotiations yield no results, we will announce the third step of the reduction of our commitments," he said.
On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said just over 10 percent of Iran's uranium stockpile was enriched to 4.5 percent, above the 3.67 percent limit stipulated in the 2015 deal.
The UN watchdog said Iran's total stockpile of uranium, which under the accord should be no more than the equivalent of 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium hexafluoride, stood at roughly 360 kilograms.
But Rouhani stressed the Iranian countermeasures were reversible.
"Our steps have been taken in such a way that it doesn't take much time to get back to the starting point," he said.
Rouhani voiced regret over the failure of European governments to fulfill pledges they made during negotiations.
Iran has called on the Europeans to accelerate their efforts to save the unraveling deal.
"Unfortunately after the US betrayal... the Europeans haven't acted on their commitments or couldn't... in some cases they could have acted but did not," he said.
"If other countries can purchase our oil or pre-purchase it and we can have access to our money, that will ease the situation and we can fully implement the deal... otherwise we will take our third step," he said.
"What we are asking of the other countries is that they continue to buy our oil.
"We can continue negotiations even after the third step," he added.
Rouhani has had a series of phone calls with Macron in recent weeks aimed at salvaging the nuclear deal.
The French president has been trying to convince the United States to offer Iran some sort of relief from sanctions it has imposed on the Islamic Republic since pulling out of the deal.
The 2015 deal was brokered between Iran and the 5+1 – UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.