Iran's foreign minister defends landmark nuclear deal

Chief negotiator Zarif says Tehran is able to resume its current nuclear programme if West fails to honour agreement.

    Despite criticism by hardliners, Zarif's deal has been overwhelmingly backed by Iran's establishment [Getty Images]
    Despite criticism by hardliners, Zarif's deal has been overwhelmingly backed by Iran's establishment [Getty Images]

    Iran's foreign minister has said that Tehran 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, interviewed on a talk show on state-run TV on Saturday night, 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," Zarif said.

    INSIDE STORY: Will lifting sanctions mean a new era for Iran?

    Zarif, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, 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.

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

    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 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.

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

    Objection to US rhetoric

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

    Zarif attributed 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; Democrats are divided.

    He said the deal, if finalised by June, would nullify all UN Security Council resolutions against Iran's nuclear programme and lead to the lifting of US and European Union sanctions.



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