By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on nuclear talks
(source: Etemaad daily)
In his first comments since the nuclear framework was announced, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not offer his full backing to the tentative agreement.
Khamenei, who has the last say in all state affairs in the Islamic republic, said there was nothing to celebrate, as a deal is far from done, while, again, reiterating his full support and trust in the Iranian negotiators.
"I neither oppose nor agree [with the tentative nuclear agreement]," he said on April 9 according to a text of his speech posted on his website.
Khamenei said sanctions should be removed on the day a final nuclear deal is signed. He also rejected international inspections of Iran's military sites.
Such demands could be a deal-breaker, as the United States has said that sanctions will only be lifted if and when Iran fulfils this and other commitments under a comprehensive deal.
U.S. State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson Jeff Rathke was asked about Khamenei's comments at his April 9 press briefing.
"Well, I'm not going to - again, we're not going to respond to every public statement made by Iranian officials or negotiate in public," he said. "Just as one example, though, under the agreed-upon parameters, sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments under a finalized joint comprehensive plan of action."
Khamenei's comments could be just posturing, as the French Ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud reminded us on Twitter. It could also be a negotiating tactic.
#IranTalks. Let's keep cool. Any difficult negotiation is preceded by some flexing of muscle and demands. Let's wait the real discussions.— Gerard Araud (@GerardAraud) April 10, 2015
Overall, Khamenei's comments and his attacks on the United States, which he accused of "devious" behavior, underlined the difficulty the negotiators from both sides are likely to face in trying to reach a final deal by the June 30 deadline.
Khamenei said he's never been "optimistic" about negotiations with the United States. But, interestingly, he also suggested that, if a lasting nuclear deal is reached, the two sides could have engagement in other areas.
"If the other side refrains from its normal devious actions, this experience can be continued on other issues," Khamenei said.
He added:" If we see that once again they repeat their devious actions, it will only strengthen our previous experience of not trusting America."
Khamenei also left the door open for a possible extension of the nuclear talks beyond the June 30 deadline.
He said: "They might say that we have only three months left. Well, if three months becomes four months, the sky won't come falling down."
Speaking on state television later in the day, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister and senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi thanked Khamenei for his "wise and precise" guidelines and support and said that talks could be extended if this was needed to meet the requirements of the Iranian leader.
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