U.S. President-elect Joe Biden urged in an interview on Thursday a multilateral and diplomatic approach to tackling Iran's nuclear program, and reiterated his determination to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Biden told CNN that he remains committed to the principles of the 2015 nuclear deal, before going on to criticize President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018.
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"The bottom line is that we can't allow Iran to get nuclear weapons," he said. Trump "has pulled out to get something tougher, and what have they done? They've increased the ability for them to have nuclear material," Biden argued. "They're moving closer to the ability to be able to have enough material for a nuclear weapon."
Biden, interviewed alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, also stressed the importance of a coalition in dealing with Iran: "We cannot do this alone. And that's why we have to be part of a larger group, dealing not only with Iran, but with Russia, with China and a whole range of other issues."
The president-elect also said it was "hard to tell how much" the recent assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh would impact any potential rapprochement with Tehran, after a senior U.S. administration official and top Iranian officials claimed that Israel was behind the assassination earlier this week.
Despite the acknowledgement it would "hard," Biden also redoubled his commitment to end sanctions on Iran in an interview with the New York Times published on Wednesday. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations,” he told the the Times' columnist Thomas Friedman.
Biden and his national security team will seek a further round of negotiations to extend the 15-year-duration of the restrictions on Iran’s production of fissile material that could be used to make a bomb. They will also look to address Iran's regional activities through proxy groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
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Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Thursday that it will fully comply with the 2015 deal aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons if both the United States and Europe honor their original commitments.
Biden, who will be sworn in as president on January 20, also discussed the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed 273,000 American lives. He told CNN that he will instruct Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days of his term, and that he backs a compromise bill on coronavirus relief before he takes office. The former vice president also pledged to take the coronavirus vaccine publicly in order to demonstrate its safety.
Amid Trump's unfounded claims of electoral fraud, Biden was also asked about the importance of the outgoing president's attendance of his January inauguration. Although he downplayed "the personal consequence" to himself, he insisted that it is "important in the sense that we are able to demonstrate the end of this chaos that he's created, that there is peaceful transfer of power with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands and moving on."