DUBAI (Reuters) - Any deal over Iran’s nuclear program must involve the immediate lifting of all sanctions, Iran’s foreign minister said on Wednesday, showing no sign of compromise on a major hurdle in world power negotiations.
“This is the position that the government has insisted on from the start,” Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.
Iran wants all the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, European Union and United States on its energy and financial sectors removed at once if there is a deal, while Western powers want them dismantled gradually.
The speed of lifting sanctions is one of the elements being discussed by Iran and the six major powers — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Their talks over Iran’s disputed nuclear ambitions are due to resume this week.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic, said last week that the immediate lifting of sanctions must be a part of any nuclear accord.
Western officials have consistently rejected that demand, with a senior European negotiator last week reiterating that this was “out of the question”.
This week’s negotiations are expected to kick off with a meeting between Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday.
The major powers are pushing for a political framework agreement by March 31 that would pave the way for a comprehensive deal with Iran by June 30 under which it would curb sensitive nuclear activities for at least a decade in exchange for an end to sanctions that have crippled its economy.
A senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, Hamid Baidinejad, said the remaining sticking points were “inter-related”.
“It’s not going to be a situation where the sanctions are first stopped and then we talk about other issues,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Baidinejad as saying. “Everything must be resolved together.”
Additional reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut, Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Sam Wilkin; Editing by Crispian Balmer