Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that his country is still ready for nuclear talks on condition of the US first lifts “unlawful” sanctions.

During a televised programme on the state channel, Rouhani said, “If they are prepared to put aside the sanctions, we are ready to talk and negotiate, even at the level of heads of the 5+1 countries”.

President Rouhani has long demanded the lifting of US sanctions for Iran’s return to talks under the auspices of the so-called P5+1 that reached a 2015 nuclear deal — the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Earlier in September, the US had imposed its first-ever sanctions against Iran’s space agency and accused it of disguising a missile program.

The US also warned the “international scientific community that collaborating with Iran on space launch vehicles could contribute to its ballistic missile program.”

In response to the US, Iran said that its space program is aimed at building rockets to launch telecommunications satellites. Iran has fired two such satellites into orbit since 2013. But three other attempts this year have failed, including one rocket that blew up on the launch pad last week.

In the recent attack, in November the US accused Iran of “nuclear extortion” and vowed no let-up in pressure after the clerical regime and said it would resume uranium enrichment at the key Fordow plant.

Rohani announced Iran’s latest step away from commitments to the nuclear agreement since the United States withdrew from it more than a year ago in an address carried live by Iranian state TV.

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

Iran has hit back with countermeasures in response to the US withdrawal from the deal, which gave it the promise of relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.