Threats Not to Stop Nuclear Work

Threats Not to Stop Nuclear Work  Threats Not to Stop Nuclear Work

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the United States has become aware of the fact that threats and sanctions cannot undermine Iran's resolve to press ahead with its nuclear program.

"Mr. Obama's remarks clearly indicate the fact that the United States, which has made direct and indirect military threats and enforced numerous draconian and illegal sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran over the past few decades, has reached the conclusion that the policy of threats and sanctions is a failed policy and such actions cannot diminish the firm resolve of the Iranian nation to access peaceful nuclear technology," Zarif said in response to US President Barack Obama's remarks about nuclear talks with Iran which were made in an interview with Reuters on Monday, according to a press release issued on Tuesday.   

The foreign minister also said, "It is clear that Mr. Obama's remarks are addressed to the US domestic audience and are (an effort) to counter the propaganda campaign mounted by the prime minister of the Zionist regime (Benjamin Netanyahu) and other hardline opponents of the negotiations, which have been phrased using unacceptable and threatening words."   

In addition, the chief nuclear negotiator said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has entered the talks (with the major powers on its nuclear program) sincerely and will continue the negotiations until the Iranian people's nuclear rights are established; and it will not yield to the other side's excessive demands and illogical stances."

***Verifiable Freeze   

Obama told Reuters that Iran should commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on its nuclear activities for a landmark nuclear deal to be reached, but the odds are still against sealing a final agreement.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) on a long-term settlement to the 12-year dispute over Tehran's nuclear program have reached a critical stage ahead of an end of March deadline for a basic framework and a June 30 date for a final deal.

"If, in fact, Iran is willing to agree to double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist ... if we've got that, and we've got a way of verifying that, there's no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don't have a nuclear weapon," he said.

The US goal is to make sure "there's at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one," Obama said in the interview.

Iran denies the allegation that it may be seeking to develop a under the guise of a civilian program, saying the work is meant only for peaceful purposes, such as electricity generation.  

In the interview, Obama again criticized a plan by Republicans and some Democrats in the US Senate to impose additional sanctions on Iran if no deal is reached by June 30, saying it could undermine the delicate talks.

"I'm less concerned, frankly, with Prime Minster Netanyahu's commentary than I'm with Congress taking actions that might undermine the talks before they're completed."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was planned to deliver a speech to Congress on Tuesday opposing the Iran nuclear talks.

***Odds Against Deal

Despite recent progress in the talks, Obama suggested there had been little change in his assessment that the negotiations have less than a 50 percent chance of success.

"I would say that it is probably still more likely than not that Iran doesn't get to 'yes,' but I think that, in fairness to them, they have been serious negotiators and they've got their own politics inside of Iran. It is more likely that we could get a deal now than perhaps three or five months ago," he said.

An Iran nuclear deal would be a potential signature achievement for Obama whose foreign policy legacy is mixed with just two years left in office.

Seemingly intractable challenges, from pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine to Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria, have overshadowed successes such as the killing of Osama bin Laden and the tentative opening up of relations with Cuba.

***All Sorts of Claim

Elsewhere, Obama reiterated the US administration's criticism of Netanyahu's address and said the Israeli leader had been wrong before with his opposition to a 2013 interim deal with Iran.

"Netanyahu made all sorts of claims. This was going to be a terrible deal. This was going to result in Iran getting 50 billion dollars worth of relief. Iran would not abide by the agreement. None of that has come true.

"It has turned out that in fact, during this period we've seen Iran not advance its program. In many ways, it's rolled back elements of its program."

Obama said a key doubt was whether Iran would agree to rigorous inspection demands and the low levels of uranium enrichment capability they would be allowed to maintain.

"But if they do agree to it, it would be far more effective in controlling their nuclear program than any military action we could take, any military action Israel could take and far more effective than sanctions will be."