TEHRAN – President Barack Obama’s statements about Iran’s nuclear program in his State of the Union address were only tough talk for a domestic audience, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday.
Zarif made the remarks in an exclusive interview with CNN's Jim Sciutto in Tehran in response to Obama's speech on Tuesday night in which the president said, "American diplomacy, backed by pressure, has halted the progress of Iran's nuclear program and rolled parts of that program back."
"The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible," he added.
Obama also stressed that international talks aimed "at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" will not be easy and may not, in the end, succeed.
"These negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb," he added.
Zarif told CNN that such statements by the White House and the U.S. State Department are meant for a domestic audience.
"It doesn't matter how the Americans try to spin it for domestic consumption. When it comes to Iran, it does matter," he said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham also said on Wednesday that Obama’s statement that the sanctions had brought Tehran to the negotiating table was "unrealistic and unconstructive".
“The delusion of sanctions having an effect on Iran's motivation for nuclear negotiations is based on a false narration of history," Afkham said.
An interim deal between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - known as the P5+1 - came into force on January 20. This granted Iran a limited easing of the sanctions in return for temporary constraints on its uranium enrichment and nuclear development.
The six-month agreement laid the foundation for talks in Geneva on a longer-term accord.