His people celebrated news of an interim nuclear deal with world powers.
But Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is much less enthusiastic.
And in his first comments on the matter, apparently meant to keep hardline loyalists on side, the Islamic Republic’s most powerful figure has warned about the “devilish” intentions of the United States.
In a speech broadcast live on state television, Khamenei said he was neither for nor against last week’s framework accord.
“What has happened so far neither guarantees a deal – or talks leading to a deal, nor does it guarantee the content of a deal. ….It doesn’t even guarantee the talks will go on until the end and will lead to a deal,” he said.
The Supreme Leader, who has the last say on all state matters, repeated his faith in President Hassan Rouhani’s negotiating team who met world powers in the Swiss resort of Lausanne and are now seeking a final accord before an end of June deadline.
But, like the President, he demanded that all sanctions on Iran be lifted at the same time as any final deal to curb Tehran’s disputed nuclear work amid Western fears it is seeking to build an atomic bomb.
These include nuclear-related United Nations resolutions as well as US and EU nuclear-related economic sanctions.
“All sanctions should be removed when the deal is signed. If the sanctions removal depends on other processes, then why did we start the negotiations?” Khamenei said.
The US State Department however has reiterated its position that sanctions would be removed gradually.
“Under the agreed-upon parameters, sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said. He declined to react specifically to the Iranian leadership’s comments.
One problem is that Iran and the world powers may have different interpretations on what was agreed in the framework accord – a point Khamenei made evident.
“Americans 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.” Khamenei said.
He made the same point on Twitter.
“Hours after the #talks, Americans offered a fact sheet that most of it was contrary to what was agreed.They always deceive &breach promises.” -@khamenei_ir
Khameni reiterated Iranian denials that Tehran was seeking to build a nuclear weapon.
France, one of the powers to forge the interim deal, said on Thursday that many differences, including on sanctions, needed to be overcome if a final agreement was to be reached.
Negotiators from Iran, the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China will resume negotiations in the coming days to try to pave the way for a final deal.