Iran could abandon its nuclear agreement with world powers and restart its nuclear program “within hours” if the United States imposes any more sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.
"If America wants to go back to the experience (of imposing sanctions), Iran would certainly return in a short time — not a week or a month but within hours — to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations," Rouhani said.
It was not immediately clear whether Rouhani meant Iran could restart centrifuges enriching uranium to higher levels. He also did not mention whether Iran is capable of rapidly restarting higher enrichment, though Iran still has its stock of centrifuges.
Rouhani’s remarks came after the Iranian parliament voted Sunday to increase spending on the country’s ballistic missile program and foreign operations of its Revolutionary Guard.
The recent moves from the Iranian government are seen as a direct response to new legislation signed by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month that imposed sanctions on Iran, targeting its missile programs as well as so-called "human rights abuses."
In late July, the U.S. Treasury also imposed sanctions on six Iranian firms for their alleged role in the development of a ballistic missile program after Tehran launched a rocket capable of putting a satellite into orbit.
The United States said Iran’s ballistic missile tests violated a U.N. resolution, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called upon Tehran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology.
However, Iran denies its missile development breaches the resolution, saying its missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons and new sanctions that the United States has imposed on it breach the agreement it reached with world powers in 2015.
The landmark agreement between Iran and the United States, Russia, China and three European powers two years ago capped Iran’s uranium enrichment levels in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
"The world has clearly seen that under Trump, America has ignored international agreements and, in addition to undermining the (nuclear deal), has broken its word on the Paris agreement and the Cuba accord ... and that the United States is not a good partner or a reliable negotiator," Rouhani said.
But Rouhani also tempered his own threat, adding that Iran seeks to remain loyal to its commitments under the nuclear deal, which opened a "path of cooperation and confidence-building" with the world.
"The deal was a model of the victory of peace and diplomacy over war and unilateralism," Rouhani said. "It was Iran's preference, but it was not and will not remain Iran's only option."