Iran leader dramatically toughens ‘red lines’ for nuclear deal

Khamenei rules out long-term limitations on program, demands right to continue R&D, in breach of previous Lausanne agreement

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, June 4, 2014. (AFP/HO/Iranian Supreme Leader's website)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, June 4, 2014. (AFP/HO/Iranian Supreme Leader's website)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dramatically toughened his country’s red lines for a nuclear deal Tuesday in an intervention during a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and top officials.

Contradicting agreements reached in a preliminary accord in Lausanne in April, and speaking days before a permanent deal is supposed to be finalized, Khamenei said he would “not accept long-term limitations” on his country’s nuclear program, and insisted on the right to ongoing nuclear research and development.

Banking and other economic sanctions imposed by the UN and the United States must be lifted “immediately” if a nuclear deal is signed, he also said, according to a transcript posted on his official website.

He allowed for “other sanctions” to be “removed gradually by a reasonable timetable,” but did not elaborate what those other sanctions were.

Khamenei said Iran would not allow inspections at military sites or “unconventional inspections” of other facilities, in remarks that follow demands from Britain and France that such access is a non-negotiable part of a verified deal.

Khamenei also voiced distrust of UN inspectors who are expected to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities and threw doubt on the duration of the framework agreement struck with world powers on April 2.

“Unlike the insistence from the Americans, we do not accept long-term limitations of 10, 12 years, and we told them how many years (of) limitations we are ready to accept,” said Khamenei, who has the final word for Iran on whether a deal is acceptable.

Under the preliminary framework, Iran and the P5+1 powers said Iran’s enrichment of uranium would be limited for 10 years and be conducted exclusively at its Natanz facility.

According to the transcript, Khamenei also said that Iran must be allowed to continue its nuclear research and development under any inspection regime and inspection period. “They say that we shouldn’t do anything in the 12-year period, but this a doubly wrong and bullying word,” Iran’s Fars news agency quoted Khamenei as saying.

“The Americans are seeking to destroy Iran’s nuclear industry and on the opposite side everyone in Iran, including me myself, the government, the parliament, the judiciary, the security and military bodies and all other bodies, are after a good agreement, that is a fair, just and honorable deal in line with Iran’s interests, while stressing on (the country’s) redlines,” Khamenei went on, according to Fars.

The supreme leader’s intervention came after Iran’s parliament and Rouhani’s government clashed on a bill passed by MPs which, if adopted into law, would give it the power to ratify a deal or, if it so wished, to reject it as unsatisfactory.

In a signal of the significance of Tuesday’s meeting, it was attended not only by Rouhani but also by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line conservative president under whom Iran’s nuclear program became a flash-point issue for the West.

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