|‘No sanctions easing at front end of Iran talks’||
TEHRAN – The United States is not looking to ease sanctions on Iran “at the front end” of negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program, a senior White House official said on Thursday.
Iran should take “concrete steps” to address its program before Washington could provide sanctions relief, Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said at the Reuters Washington Summit.
The United States, Israel, and a few of their European allies accuse Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program.
However, the International Atomic Energy Agency has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and found no evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
Major powers last week held their first formal negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program since the election in June of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani opened the door to a possible diplomatic resolution.
Obama has made clear his preference is a negotiated solution - one that is widely expected to gradually remove economic sanctions that have negatively affected Iran’s economy.
In an hour-long interview, Rhodes said one way to offer Iran sanctions relief would be to give it access to frozen funds. But he said that was simply one possibility among many and that he did not wish to suggest a preferred course had been identified.
“We are not contemplating anything that removes those sanctions at the front end of any negotiation or agreement, because it’s going to be important to test Iranian intentions,” Rhodes said.
“Before we could pursue sanctions relief, we’d have to see concrete steps by the Iranians to get at the state of their nuclear program,” he added at the summit, held at the Reuters office in Washington.
Rhodes made clear the Obama administration wanted some flexibility from the U.S. Congress to explore such a deal, saying the White House would like lawmakers to consider the progress of negotiations as they contemplate any new sanctions.
The White House hosted a meeting on Thursday of U.S. Senate aides seeking to persuade lawmakers to hold off on a package of tough new sanctions against Iran, a senior Senate aide said.
While Congress has sought harsher sanctions on Iran, the White House wants time to give negotiations a chance. The talks, which include Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, are due to resume Nov. 7-8 in Geneva.
“We continue to want to have that flexibility to pursue this diplomatic track. There’s an opening that we want to test,” Rhodes said.
“That doesn’t mean that Congress won’t consider new sanctions. It means that as they do, they should take into account the progress we’re making on diplomacy, and that we need to have some flexibility to pursue an agreement,” he added.
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|Last Updated on 25 October 2013 17:43|