Ayatollah Khamenei backs President Rouhani on nuclear talks

news
09 February 2015

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday he could accept a compromise in nuclear talks, and gave his strongest defence yet of President Hassan Rouhani's decision to negotiate with the West, a policy opposed by powerful hardliners at home.

As his foreign minister met counterparties in the talks at a conference in Munich, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he "firmly" backed a fair nuclear deal.

"I would go along with any agreement that could be made. Of course, if it is not a bad deal. No agreement is better than an agreement which runs contrary to our nation's interests," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian air force personnel, according to official news agencies.

In a speech that still underlined his suspicions about Western nations that he characterised as "bullies", Khamenei backed Rouhani's negotiations with them and said any workable deal would mean both sides easing their demands.

"As the president said, negotiations mean reaching a common point. Therefore, the other party ... should not expect its illogical expectations to be materialised. This means that one side would not end up getting all it wants.

''I am for reaching a good settlement and the Iranian nation too will certainly not oppose any deal to uphold its dignity and integrity," Khamenei said, an apparent warning to hardliners that they might have to accept a deal with powers, including the United States, commonly known in Iran as "the Great Satan".

Negotiators have set a 30 June final deadline for an accord, and Western officials have said they aim to agree on the substance of such a deal by March.

In an interview on Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry ruled out an extension of the deadline if an agreement is not reached.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address the US Congress on Iran on 3 March - to the annoyance of the Obama administration said, "We will do everything and will take any action to foil this bad and dangerous agreement.

"World powers and Iran are charging ahead to an agreement that would allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weaponry, something that would imperil the existence of the State of Israel," Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting.

The nuclear talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and France are aimed at clinching an accord that would ease Western concerns that Tehran could pursue a convert nuclear weapons programme, in return for the lifting of sanctions that have ravaged the Iranian economy.

Major sticking points are the pace at which sanctions would be removed, the size of Iran's nuclear fuel-producing capacity - a key consideration in preventing any output of bomb material - and the length of any agreement.

"Our (nuclear) negotiators are trying to take the weapon of sanctions away from the enemy. If they can, so much the better. If they fail, everyone should know there are many ways at our disposal to dull this weapon," Khamenei said.

Any deal "must be concluded in one stage and consist of clear and detailed specifications, and not subject to (various) interpretations", he said.

"Given our past experience in dealing with (the West), a final draft must not leave any room for the other side to repeatedly extract concessions."





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