Tehran (AFP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday that last week’s hard-won framework accord with world powers on Tehran’s nuclear program was no guarantee of a final deal and that much work remained.
And President Hassan Rouhani added that Iran would not sign any final agreement unless “all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day.”
“What has been done so far does not guarantee an agreement, nor its contents, nor even that the negotiations will continue to the end,” Khamenei, who has the final word on all matters of state, said on his website.
On April 2, after a week of gruelling 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 “everything is in the detail; it may be that the other side, which is unfair, wants to limit our country in the details.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gets a hero’s welcome as he arrives back in Tehran on April 3, 2015 after reaching a framework nuclear deal with Western powers
Playing down expectations of a final deal after the interim accord — which sparked celebrations in the streets of 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.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi unveil a nuclear fuel assembly on National Nuclear Technology Day in Tehran on April 9, 2015
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.
Sanctions lifted ‘same day’
“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 honourable 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.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says economic sanctions must be lifted “on the same day” as any nuclear deal is implemented
In a potential obstacle to any final deal, Rouhani said his country wanted sanctions lifted on the day of the implementation of any agreement.
“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.
“In return for Iran’s future cooperation, we and our international partners will provide relief in phases from the sanctions that have impacted Iran’s economy,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week.
Rouhani, who was speaking on Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, reiterated that his government remained determined to develop its civil nuclear program.
Photo: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting in Tehran on April 9, 2015 (afp.com)