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Sanctions and agreement don't go together: Iranian FM Zarif

Source: Tehran Times

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says a gradual lifting of the sanctions on Iran is not “very conducive” to confidence building. “We have a very clear mandate that all sanctions must go,” Zarif said in an interview with Kyodo News published on Friday. “Sanctions and an agreement don’t go together,” said Zarif.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Western economic sanctions should be lifted completely, rather than gradually, before an agreement can be reached in talks on the Iranian nuclear issue, he said.

Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany) have agreed to conclude a framework agreement by the end of March.

We believe we are ‘very close’ to nuclear deal

In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Zarif also said Iran has no intention of building a nuclear weapon, and the sooner the world recognizes that, the sooner there will be a deal aimed at curbing its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

“Iran is not about building nuclear weapons,” Zarif said. “We don’t want to build nuclear weapons, we don’t believe nuclear weapons bring security to anybody, certainly not to us.”

Zarif said his country’s nuclear ambitions were solely in the pursuit of “scientific advancement” and boosting national pride. “Once we reach that understanding, once this hysteria is out, once this fear mongering is out, then we can have a deal, and a deal that is not going to hurt anybody,” he said.

He added: “We are prepared to work round the clock in order to reach an agreement. We believe that we are very close, very close and we could be very far.” He said “there are details that need to be worked out.”

“We are very close if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said,” he said.

The minister spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the U.S. Congress, warning against a deal, which he said “paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

Zarif has accused Netanyahu of trying to interfere in the negotiations, which involve the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany. Zarif said there is no validity to Netanyahu’s predictions that Iran is a year or two of developing a nuclear warhead. “Mr. Netenyahu has been proclaiming, predicting that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within two, three, four years since 1992,” Zarif said.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pushing hard for an accord, has also cautioned against distractions from “external factors or politics.” Netanyahu’s address to Congress at the invitation of Republican leaders was seen by some Democrats as a way to undermine the Obama administration’s attempts to secure a deal.

Zarif told Curry that he hoped to reach a deal that would ensure that Iran’s nuclear program “will always remain peaceful.”

“There may be people have concerns there may be people who may have been affected by the type of hysteria that is being fanned by people like Mr. Netenyahu, and it is useful for everybody to allow this deal to go through.”

Some people consider peace an existential threat

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters are trying to create “an atmosphere of hysteria” and “fear-mongering,” the Iranian foreign minister said Thursday.

“The only explanation that you can have here is that some people consider peace and stability as an existential threat,” Zarif told CNN.

“Because a deal cannot be threatening to anybody unless you want conflict and tension and mistrust and crises,” he added.

Zarif also stated that he believed negotiators were “very close” to a deal, but only if everybody avoided “the path of confrontation.”

“Everybody has to make tough choices. We have made the choice to engage in negotiations, although we believe that this entire exercise was unnecessary -- this was a manufactured crisis,” the Iranian foreign minister stated.

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