Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday he neither backed nor rejected an interim accord with six world powers on Tehran's disputed nuclear program but demanded all sanctions be lifted immediately once a final agreement was concluded.
He added in a televised speech that the details of the accord would be decisive, and the publication of a US fact sheet showing terms that were at variance with the Iranian view of the agreement showed "devilish" US intentions.
"I neither support nor oppose it," he said. "Everything is in the details; it may be that the deceptive other side wants to restrict us in the details."
The tentative accord, struck on April 2 after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for a settlement to allay Western fears that Iran could build an atomic bomb, with economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted in return.
"The White House put out a statement just a few hours after our negotiators finished their talks...this statement, which they called a 'fact sheet', was wrong on most of the issues."
Khameni reiterated Iranian denials that Tehran was seeking to build a nuclear weapon.
He added: "What has been achieved so far does not guarantee a deal or even that the negotiations will continue to the end."
"I was never optimistic about negotiating with America... nonetheless I agreed to the negotiations and supported, and still support, the negotiatiors."
He said he supported a deal that preserved the "interests and honor" of Iran and that an extension of a June 30 deadline should not matter.
Earlier on Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said that any final deal with world powers must include the immediate lifting of all sanctions
"We will not sign any deal unless all sanctions are lifted on the same day ... We want a win-win deal for all parties involved in the nuclear talks," Rouhani said.
The world powers and Iran have not yet agreed on the pace of sanctions relief, a fundamental component of the structure of a nuclear deal. Earlier this week, the White House said that international sanctions would be lifted only gradually.
The disagreement between the parties is over how to pair international sanctions relief for Iran with its demonstrated compliance with an accord.
Washington stipulated that it would accept sanctions being “phased out” only as Tehran complies with a final agreement to halt its nuclear program.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday that the US would not budge from its position. A phased approach is the only way to incentivize Iran to comply over the life of the deal, he said, which includes provisions lasting between 10 and 25 years.
“You can’t start talking about relieving sanctions until we’ve reached agreements about how we’re going to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon,” Earnest told reporters.
Under the framework deal with Iran reached earlier this month, framing the parameters of a larger, more technical agreement due by June 30, Iran will be allowed to continue the enrichment of uranium and will close no facilities.