Iran may re­sume nu­clear if West with­draws: min­is­ter

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY NASSER KARIMI

Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter said Satur­day that Tehran would be able to re­turn to its nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties if the West with­draws from a pact that is to be fi­nal­ized in June.

Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter and chief nu­clear ne­go­tia­tor, said on a talk show on state-run TV that Iran has the power to take “cor­re­spond­ing ac­tion” and “will be able to re­turn” its nu­clear pro­gram to the same level if the other side fails to honor the agree­ment.

“All par­ties to the agree­ment can stop their ac­tions (ful­fill­ment of their com­mit­ments) in case of vi­o­la­tion of the agree­ment by the other party,” Zarif said.

Zarif said the frame­work nu­clear deal an­nounced by Iran and six world pow­ers Thurs­day in Switzer­land was not bind­ing un­til a fi­nal agree­ment is worked out by a June 30 dead­line. The frame­work agree- ment, if fi­nal­ized, would cut sig­nif­i­cantly into Iran’s bomb-ca­pa­ble nu­clear tech­nol­ogy while giv­ing Tehran quick ac­cess to bank ac­counts, oil mar­kets and other fi­nan­cial as­sets blocked by in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions.

Zarif said the deal, if fi­nal­ized, would nul­lify all U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions against Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram and lead to the lift­ing of U.S. and Euro­pean Union sanc­tions.

Zarif’s re­marks ap­pear aimed at re­as­sur­ing hard­lin­ers in Iran who strongly op­pose the frame­work agree­ment as a good deal for the West and dis­as­ter for Iran.

De­spite crit­i­cism by hard­lin­ers, the deal has been over­whelm­ingly backed by Iran’s estab­lish­ment, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani who pledged in a speech to the na­tion on Fri­day that Iran will abide by its com­mit­ments un­der the nu­clear deal.

Zarif said Iran is “com­mit­ted” to im­ple­ment­ing its part of any fi­nal agree­ment pro­vid­ing West­ern coun­tries ful­fill their prom­ises.

He said Iran wants to have a “mod­er­ate, con­struc­tive and proud pres­ence” in the world.

Zarif re­ceived a hero’s wel­come upon his re­turn to Tehran on Fri­day. Crowds of cheer­ing sup­port­ers sur­rounded Zarif’s ve­hi­cle and chanted slo­gans sup­port­ing him and Rouhani.

In the TV in­ter­view, Zarif said he “ob­jected” to U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry us­ing the word “sus­pen­sion” rather than “ter­mi­na­tion” re­gard­ing sanc­tions against Iran in the state­ment on the frame­work deal an­nounced Thurs­day in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land.

Zarif at­trib­uted Kerry’s ac­tion as be­ing aimed at ad­dress­ing rifts be­tween the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress over the deal. Repub­li­cans are al­most uni­ver­sally op­posed to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s diplo­matic ef­fort; Democrats re­main di­vided.

Zarif said the agree­ment showed that the West can­not halt Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, which Tehran in­sists is for peace­ful pur­poses such as power gen­er­a­tion and can­cer treat­ment. West­ern coun­tries sus­pect that Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram has a mil­i­tary di­men­sion.

With­out nam­ing any coun­try, Zarif as­sured Iran’s neigh­bors such as Saudi Ara­bia which are con­cerned about Iran’s nu­clear am­bi­tions that Tehran is not af­ter re­gional dom­i­na­tion.

“We are not af­ter a nu­clear bomb. We are also not af­ter hege­mony in the re­gion, too,” Zarif said. “Se­cu­rity of our neigh­bors is our se­cu­rity, too.”

Saudi Ara­bia has ex­pressed con­cern about grow­ing Ira­nian in­flu­ence in Iraq, Syria and Le­banon which have large Shi­ite Mus­lim pop­u­la­tions. A Saudi-led mil­i­tary coali­tion is now car­ry­ing out airstrikes in Ye­men against Shi­ite Houthi rebels who are sup­ported by Iran.

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