TEHRAN: Iran said Thursday last week’s hard-won framework deal on its nuclear program was no guarantee of a final deal, as the United States said sanctions would be lifted in stages.
“What has been done so far does not guarantee an agreement, nor its contents, nor even that the negotiations will continue to the end,” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on all matters of state, said on his website.
And President Hassan Rouhani added that Iran would not sign any final agreement unless “all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day.”
However, Washington warned that sanctions will be lifted in stages as a deal is implemented.
“Sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments under a finalized joint comprehensive plan of action,” US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.
This stance was underlined by Britain’s Foreign Office.
“Sanctions will remain in place until the comprehensive deal is agreed and there is IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of its nuclear commitments,” spokesman said.
On April 2, after a week of grueling 11th-hour negotiations, Tehran and the six powers agreed on a framework to be finalized by the end of June to rein in Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
In his first comments on that deal, Khamenei said that “everything is in the detail; it may be that the other side, which is unfair, wants to limit our country in the details.”
Khamenei dampens optimism
Playing down expectations of a final deal after the interim accord—which sparked celebrations in Iran—Khamenei said he had not taken any position until now as “there is nothing to take a stance on”.
“Officials say that nothing has been done yet and there is nothing binding. I am neither for nor against,” he said, dampening the optimism that followed the marathon negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
Khamenei’s eagerly awaited first assessment follows positive comments from several Iranian officials as well as allies Syria and Russia.
Under the outline agreed with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States—Iran must significantly reduce its number of centrifuges in exchange for a suspension of sanctions.
The centrifuges are used to enrich uranium, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or the fissile core of a nuclear bomb at greater levels of purity.
The outline was a major breakthrough in a 12-year international crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and raised hopes among ordinary Iranians of a lifting of sanctions which have stifled the economy.
“I have always supported and still support the Iranian negotiating team,” Khamenei said.
“I welcome any agreement that protects the interests and greatness of the nation, but having no agreement is more honorable than an agreement in which the interests and greatness of the nation is damaged.”
He said that retaining a civil nuclear industry in any agreement was vital for Iran’s future development.
“The nuclear industry is a necessity, for energy production, for desalination, and in the fields of medicine, agriculture and other sectors,” he said.
In a potential obstacle to any final deal, Rouhani said his country wanted sanctions lifted on the day of the implementation of any agreement.
‘Key parameters agreed’
“We will not sign any agreements unless on the first day of the implementation of the deal all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day,” he said.
The pace at which the sanctions will be lifted is one of the issues that still has to be agreed.
Western governments, which have imposed their own sanctions over and above those adopted by the United Nations, have been pushing for that to happen only gradually.