TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday the international sanctions regime has crumbled and will not be rebuilt even if Iran and world powers fail to reach a final nuclear deal by a July 20 deadline.
Rouhani told a press conference it is still possible to reach a comprehensive accord before the deadline and that his government will in any case remain committed to its policy of constructive interaction with the West.
"If we can't reach a final agreement in negotiations by July 20 ... conditions will never go back to the past. The sanctions regime has been broken," he told reporters.
Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany reached an interim deal in November in Geneva that limited Iran's uranium enrichment program in exchange for the easing of some sanctions. The agreement was intended to buy time for the negotiation of a comprehensive deal to resolve the decade-long impasse.
Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of secretly pursuing a nuclear weapon capability alongside its civilian program. Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
Rouhani said it is still possible that a final accord will be achieved between Iran and the six-nation group — the U.S., France, U.K., Germany, Russia and China — before the deadline expires.
"We believe the issue can be settled by July 20. We are very serious at the talks," he said.
Top diplomats from Iran and the U.S. have held direct talks in recent days in the hopes of narrowing differences ahead of formal talks early next week.
Under the historic Geneva deal, Tehran stopped enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity in exchange for the easing of some Western sanctions. However, Iran will continue uranium enrichment up to the level of 5 percent. Uranium must be enriched to more than 90 percent in order to be used in a nuclear weapon.
Rouhani said Iran would continue uranium enrichment and that all sanctions would be lifted under a comprehensive accord.