Biden: U.S. won't lift sanctions until Iran halts uranium enrichment

Biden: U.S. won't lift sanctions until Iran halts uranium enrichment

President Biden said the U.S. will not lift sanctions against Iran unless the country stops enriching uranium, continuing a standoff with the country's supreme leader, who has demanded that sanctions be lifted before the country returns to its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.

"CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell spoke to Mr. Biden in his first network news interview since his inauguration. It will air in the 4 p.m. hour ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday.

"Will the U.S. lift sanctions first in order to get Iran back to the negotiating table?" O'Donnell asked.

"No," Mr. Biden responded.

"They have to stop enriching uranium first?" O'Donnell asked.

Mr. Biden nodded affirmatively.

Under the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the U.S. and other world powers agreed to lift crippling economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on the country's nuclear program. Former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed those sanctions. Mr. Biden has said he plans to rejoin the agreement.

In early January, Iran announced it had resumed advanced uranium enrichment, in violation of the terms of the 2015 deal. A global nuclear watchdog also told the United Nations last month that Iran has begun to manufacture equipment used to produce uranium metal, the group said, which can be used to make the core of a nuclear warhead.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that the U.S. must lift sanctions before Iran meets its commitments under the nuclear accords. In November, Iran's foreign minister said the country would "automatically" return to its commitments if Mr. Biden lifts sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump.

At his confirmation hearing last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that if Iran took the first step and came back into compliance with the terms of the deal as currently written, "we would, too."

"But we would use that as a platform to seek a longer and stronger agreement, but also to capture these other issues, particularly with missiles and other destabilizing activity," Blinken told senators, adding that "we are a long way from there."

O'Donnell also asked Mr. Biden about another key foreign relationship: the U.S. and China.

"The U.S.-China relationship is probably one of the most important in the entire world," O'Donnell said. "Why haven't you called Xi Jinping?"

"Well, we haven't had occasion to talk to him yet," Mr. Biden responded. "There's no reason not to call him. I probably spent more time with Xi Jinping, I'm told, than any world leader has, because I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president. Traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well."

"There's a lot to talk about?" O'Donnell asked.

"A lot to talk about. A whole lot to talk about," Mr. Biden said. "And he's very bright. He's very tough. He doesn't have — and I don't mean it as a criticism, just the reality — he doesn't have a democratic, small D, bone in his body. But he is — the question is, I've said to him all along, that we need to not have a conflict. But there's going to be extreme competition. And I'm not going to do it the way that he knows. And that's because he's sending signals as well. I'm not going to do it the way Trump did. We're going to focus on international rules of the road."

The full interview will air Sunday during the 4 p.m. ET hour ahead of the Super Bowl, only on CBS.

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