A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri (center left) decorating the wife (center right) of assassinated nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (pictured) with a badge of merit during a ceremony held in the capital Tehran. - AFP

TEHRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday voiced confidence that President-elect Joe Biden will resume US commitments under the nuclear deal which Donald Trump pulled out of. Tensions between Tehran and Washington soared during Trump's presidency, especially after 2018 when he withdrew Washington from the landmark nuclear deal and reimposed punishing unilateral sanctions on Iran.

Biden, who defeated Trump at the ballot box in November, has signaled a willingness to return to diplomacy with Iran. And Rouhani's government has repeatedly signaled its openness to the incoming US administration and called on Washington to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions. "I have no doubt that the perseverance of the Iranian people during these past three years will force the new US government to succumb and resume its commitments," Rouhani said in televised remarks.

"The sanctions will be broken," he added. His comments come a day after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran should bolster itself to "nullify" the effects of the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, but should "not delay" in case they can be lifted.

Rouhani echoed Khamenei, saying time should not be wasted. "We must act in order to nullify the effects of the sanctions… as the supreme leader has said." "We should not wait, not even one hour, for the lifting of the sanctions. The government must do everything in its power to break the sanctions," Rouhani added. He said Iran will do "everything possible to achieve" what he described as a "very important instruction" made by Khamenei.

Biden, who takes office January 20, has signalled Washington would rejoin the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was abandoned by the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump. Senior EU foreign affairs official Helga Schmid issued a brief statement following the talks she chaired. "Participants discussed… how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides in light of existing challenges," it said.

While she did not say what those challenges were, the deal has unravelled steadily since Trump withdrew from it in 2018 and went on to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran. Tehran has retaliated by progressively abandoning limits on its nuclear activity laid down in the deal, most recently planning to install advanced centrifuges at Iran's main nuclear enrichment plant in Natanz. Last week France, Germany and Britain-collectively known as the "E3"-condemned the plan as "deeply worrying". -AFP