Iran’s Supreme Leader has called Israel a “cancerous tumour” and said the country will substantially increase uranium enrichment “if the nuclear deal collapses”.
Ayatollah Ali Khameini’s comments were made on social media, as he said Israel “has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen”.
He also condemned “traitorous countries, who refrain from their great duty of fighting against Israel”.
The broadside, which was ridiculed by the Israeli Embassy in the US, came on the 29th anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, who led the overthrow of Persia’s 2,500 year old monarchy in 1979.
The comments came as Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation (AEO) confirmed yesterday that Iran would write to the International Atomic Energy Agency to announce a substantial increase in uranium enrichment.
Under the 2015 nuclear agreement, which the US pulled out of last month, Iran agrees to limit its uranium enrichment capacity in return for sanctions relief, but Donald Trump announced new sanctions when he withdrew.
The head of the AEO, Ali Akbar Salehi, told reporters on Tuesday that preparations were under way to build new centrifuges, saying: “If we were progressing normally, it would have taken six or seven years, but this will now be ready in the coming weeks and months.”
He added: “If the [deal] collapses, and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble new-generation of centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the agreement.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu successfully lobbied Donald Trump to pull out of the Iran deal, brokered by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama and the then Secretary of State John Kerry. Netanyahu is in Europe this week to lobby French, British and German leaders to follow Trump’s lead.