Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has defended the domestic nuclear program against criticism. “Nuclear weapons play no role at all in the defense doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Ayatollah said Tuesday in his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York. The international sanctions did not stop the country from progressing.

In a nuclear agreement in 2015, Tehran committed itself to drastically restricting the enrichment of uranium and allowing strict IAEA controls. This was intended to prevent the construction of nuclear weapons. In return, many sanctions against Iran were lifted. Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally terminated the agreement in 2018 and imposed new, harsh sanctions. Afterwards, Tehran no longer saw itself bound by the pact.

Tehran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Saturday that some inspectors would no longer be allowed to work in Iran. The move followed the announcement by Germany, France and Great Britain on Thursday that they would not lift existing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have not made significant progress for more than a year. On Monday, the United States and Iran completed a prisoner swap that has been in the works for months, which observers say could also pave the way for new rounds of talks. Raisi was also accompanied on his trip to the US by Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, who leads the nuclear talks for Tehran.