Iran's Zarif: We're Very Close to a Deal

Iran's Foreign Minister says United States and Iran have nearly reached a nuclear deal, but there are still details left to be negotiated.

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Elad Benari,

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday said that the United States and Iran have nearly reached a nuclear arms deal, though there are still details left to be negotiated.

“We believe we are very close, very close, but we could be very far,” he told NBC News in an exclusive interview.

Zarif dismissed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s remarks in his Congress speech on Tuesday, in which Netanyahu warned against the impending deal with Iran.

The Iranian Foreign Minister, however, claimed Netanyahu was engaging in a “popularity contest” in the United States and argued that Iran doesn’t want a nuclear bomb, despite Netanyahu’s “hysteria.”

“We never had a bomb, we will never have a bomb, we are not looking to a have a bomb, we do not believe a bomb is in our best interest,” he claimed.

Zarif insisted that fears of Iran’s nuclear ambitions were misplaced, saying the country is only interested in nuclear energy.

“We are prepared to go the extra mile in order to convince the international community our nuclear program is purely peaceful,” he told NBC News, adding that his country has had enough material to build “many bombs” for over a decade but hasn’t done it.

He admitted that neither the U.S. nor Iran really trusts the other: “We’re not asking anyone to trust us and we’re not going to trust others. We’re asking for verification and we’re accepting verification.”

Responding to Zarif’s comments, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said, “We should take what the foreign minister has to say with a very large grain of salt,” and pointed out to Zarif’s honoring the grave of a Hezbollah leader in Lebanon.

Dermer, like Netanyahu, stressed that the current deal would “pave Iran’s path to the bomb” particularly as certain restrictions are lifted over time, which Zarif denied.

“We are not about to be free to develop nuclear weapons any time in the future. We don’t want to and we have an obligation not to,” he said, saying there is no part of the deal that would allow it. “Whenever these specific limitations end, Iran will be bound by international obligations like any other country, like any other country, and it will be monitored, so there is no sunset clause.”

Dermer said the deal would not block Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and urged people to heed Israel’s warnings.

“We just have a disagreement here, we agree with the United States, we both want to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but the question is does this deal block Iran’s path to the bomb?”

Zarif’s comments come as Iran and the West continue talks aimed at turning an interim 2013 deal into a permanent agreement.

Under the interim deal, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent and is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief.

Talks to reach a permanent deal have continuously stalled and two deadlines for a final deal have been missed, with a third one looming on July 1 and an initial deal needing to be worked out by March 31.








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