Rouhani: No deal unless all sanctions removed ‘on the same day’

World powers have said sanctions to be lifted in phases, based on Iran’s compliance with the agreement

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran, Friday April 3, 2015 (Photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran, Friday April 3, 2015 (Photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s president said on Thursday that Tehran would not sign a final nuclear deal with world powers unless all sanctions against the Islamic Republic were removed immediately.

“We will not sign any agreements unless on the first day of the implementation of the deal all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.

He spoke during a ceremony marking Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, which celebrates the country’s nuclear achievements.

Iran and six world powers reached a framework agreement last week aimed at keeping Tehran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon. No text was signed or finalized, and there are major discrepancies over what was agreed, including over the process of sanctions relief. The deal is to be finalized by the end of June.

It is meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program while giving Tehran quick access to bank accounts, oil markets and financial assets blocked by international sanctions.

The pace at which the sanctions will be lifted is one of the many outstanding issues that still has to be agreed in the final accord.

Western governments, which have imposed their own sanctions over and above those adopted by the United Nations, have been pushing for it to happen only gradually.

“In return for Iran’s future cooperation, we and our international partners will provide relief in phases from the sanctions that have impacted Iran’s economy,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week.

US President Barack Obama said that the final deal will include provisions to “snap back” sanctions if the world finds out that Iran is not abiding by the terms of the agreement.

But Israel has expressed concern over how quickly the sanctions will be lifted, and questioned whether the “snap back” mechanism is feasible.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office tweeted a series of graphics over the past few days outlining Israel’s main questions regarding the deal. One of those was: “Are sanctions being removed in phases, as the P5+1 claims, or all at once, as Iran claims?”

Israel is concerned that once removed, the sanctions — which took years to set into place — will be hard to restore.

Kerry on Wednesday maintained there was “an automatic process” to reinstate sanctions, if need be.

If Iran violates the terms of the agreement “then the sanctions can, and will, come back. For a certain number of years that will happen automatically, but I can assure you that if Iran were then to suddenly move to try to advance this program beyond what would be normal for a peaceful nuclear power, the whole world will respond just as we have now and sanctions would be re-imposed,” Kerry told PBS’s NewsHour.

The “snap back” mechanism was also criticized by former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz, in a joint column in the Wall Street Journal.

“Undertaking the ‘snap-back’ of sanctions is unlikely to be as clear or as automatic as the phrase implies. Iran is in a position to violate the agreement by executive decision. Restoring the most effective sanctions will require coordinated international action,” the two wrote. “In countries that had reluctantly joined in previous rounds, the demands of public and commercial opinion will militate against automatic or even prompt ‘snap-back.’ If the follow-on process does not unambiguously define the term, an attempt to reimpose sanctions risks primarily isolating America, not Iran.”

Saudi airstrikes in Yemen ‘a mistake’

The Iranian president on Thursday also warned Saudi Arabia and its allies that their airstrikes campaign in Yemen is a “mistake” and called for a halt to the strikes.

Rouhani said that such campaigns are “wrong” and cited examples of Syria and Iraq.

He did not single out any country in particular but said, “You learned that it was wrong. You will learn, not later but soon, that you are making a mistake in Yemen, too.”

He also called for a ceasefire in Yemen to allow for broad-based talks on resolving the crisis.

For two weeks now, a campaign by a Saudi-led coalition has tried to stop a power grab by Iranian-backed Shiite rebels who have seized much of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

Tehran and the rebels deny that Iran is arming them.

AFP, AP contributed to this report.

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