President Hassan Rouhani's remark is his second such public comment this year about 90% enrichment -- a level suitable for a nuclear bomb -- underlining Iran's resolve to keep breaching the deal in the absence of any accord to revive it. read more
The biggest obstacle to producing nuclear weapons is obtaining enough fissile material - weapons-grade highly enriched uranium or plutonium - for the bomb’s core.
Iran says it has never sought nuclear weapons.
The nuclear deal caps the fissile purity to which Tehran can refine uranium at 3.67%, well under the 20% achieved before the pact and far below the 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon.
Iran has been breaching the deal in several ways after the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018, including by producing 20% and 60% enriched uranium.
Rouhani, who will hand over the presidency to hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi on Aug. 5, implicitly criticised Iran's top decision makers for "not allowing" his government to reinstate the nuclear deal during its term in office.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not the president, has the last say on all state matters such as nuclear policy.
Like Khamenei, Raisi has backed indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at bringing back the arch foes into full compliance with the accord. Former U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal three years ago, saying it was biased in favour of Iran, and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran.
The sixth round of nuclear talks in Vienna adjourned on June 20. The next round of the talks has yet to be scheduled, and Iranian and Western officials have said that significant gaps still remain to be resolved.
One of the officials said many members of Iran's nuclear team might be replaced with hardline officials, but top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi would stay "at least for a while".
The second official said Raisi planned to show "less flexibility and demand more concessions" from Washington such as keeping a chain of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in place and insisting on the removal of human rights and terrorism related U.S. sanctions.
Trump blacklisted dozens of institutions vital to Iran's economy using laws designed to punish foreign actors for supporting terrorism or weapons proliferation.