Thursday 22 February 2018

Zarif warning on Iran nuclear deal

Mohammad Javad Zarif waves to the crowds on his arrival back from the Lausanne talks (AP)
Mohammad Javad Zarif waves to the crowds on his arrival back from the Lausanne talks (AP)

Iran would be able to return to its nuclear activities if the West withdraws from a pact that is to be finalised in June, foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

The chief nuclear negotiator for Iran appeared on a talk show on state-run television.

He said Iran has the power to take "corresponding action" and "will be able to return" its nuclear programme to the same level if the other side fails to honour the agreement.

"All parties to the agreement can stop their actions (fulfilment of their commitments) in case of violation of the agreement by the other party," Mr Zarif said.

He said the framework nuclear deal announced by Iran and six world powers on Thursday in Switzerland was not binding until a final agreement is worked out by a June 30 deadline.

The framework agreement, if finalised, would cut significantly into Iran's bomb-capable nuclear technology while giving Tehran quick access to bank accounts, oil markets and other financial assets blocked by international sanctions.

Mr Zarif said the deal, if finalised, would nullify all UN Security Council resolutions against Iran's nuclear programme and lead to the lifting of US and EU sanctions.

His remarks appear aimed at reassuring hardliners in Iran who strongly oppose the framework agreement as a good deal for the West and disaster for Iran.

Despite criticism by hardliners, the deal has been overwhelmingly backed by Iran's establishment, including President Hassan Rouhani who has pledged that Iran will abide by its commitments under the nuclear deal.

Mr Zarif said Iran is "committed" to implementing its part of any final agreement providing Western countries fulfil their promises.

He said Iran wants to have a "moderate, constructive and proud presence" in the world.

The foreign minister received a hero's welcome upon his return to Tehran on Friday. Crowds of cheering supporters surrounded his vehicle and chanted slogans supporting him and Mr Rouhani.

In the TV interview, Mr Zarif said he "objected" to US secretary of state John Kerry using the word "suspension" rather than "termination" regarding sanctions against Iran in the statement on the framework deal announced in Lausanne.

He Zarif attributed Mr Kerry's action as being aimed at addressing rifts between the Obama administration and Congress over the deal.

Republicans are almost universally opposed to President Barack Obama's diplomatic effort, while Democrats remain divided.

Mr Zarif said the agreement showed that the West cannot halt Iran's nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes such as power generation and cancer treatment.

Western countries suspect the nuclear programme has a military dimension.

Without naming any country, Mr Zarif assured Iran's neighbours such as Saudi Arabia which are concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions that Tehran is not after regional domination.

"We are not after a nuclear bomb. We are also not after hegemony in the region, too," he said. "Security of our neighbours is our security, too."

Saudi Arabia has expressed concern about growing Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon which have large Shiite Muslim populations.

A Saudi-led military coalition is now carrying out airstrikes in Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels who are supported by Iran.

Press Association

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