The West cannot stop Iran from building nuclear weapons, the country’s supreme leader has said.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was speaking on Sunday as tensions continue to mount over the country’s nuclear work.
In words reported by state media, he said: “Talks about Tehran’s nuclear weapons is a lie and [the West] know it.
“We do not want nuclear arms based on our beliefs, otherwise they would not have been able to stop it.”
A deal with the West over the nuclear programme is possible, the supreme leader said, but only if Tehran can keep its nuclear infrastructure intact.
He said: “There is nothing wrong with the agreement [with the West], but the infrastructure of our nuclear industry should not be touched.”
Iran should continue working with the UN nuclear watchdog, he added.
In recent years, the Islamic Republic has expanded its stockpile of uranium – its total enriched uranium is now 21 times more than the limits imposed on it under the now-defunct JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) nuclear deal.
Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal in 2018 while he was the country’s president, and diplomatic efforts to revive it have been at a stalemate since September, with both sides accusing the other of making unreasonable demands.
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Tehran has continued to install advanced centrifuges, and last year particles enriched to 83.7% were detected.
Last week, Iran unveiled a hypersonic missile it claims can hit Israel in 400 seconds and evade the Iron Dome defence system.
The viability of this weapon remains questionable but the move was a warning to Israel that it was in range.
That prompted Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tell Sky News that his country would do “whatever we need to do to defend ourselves” against Iran.
Mr Netanyahu said that diplomacy would only work “if it’s coupled with a credible military threat or the willingness to apply the military option if deterrence fails”.
He added: “Iran is openly committed to destroying, repeating the Holocaust and destroying the six or seven million Jews of Israel and we’re not going to sit by, idly by, and let them do it.
“[If] these ayatollahs think that they could threaten us with a nuclear holocaust they’re wrong. We will do whatever we need to do to defend ourselves.”