Iran's top diplomat said any new U.S. congressional sanctions against his country could scuttle a multilateral agreement on the Persian Gulf power's disputed nuclear activities, Time magazine reported on Monday.
"The entire deal is dead" if Congress approves new sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Friday interview. Potential deal-breakers include proposals that would be triggered only if Tehran and six other governments fail within six months to reach a longer-term accord that meets certain standards.
"We do not like to negotiate under duress," Zarif said. "I know the domestic complications and various issues inside the United States, but for me that is no justification."
The six-month interim deal reached in November calls for Iran to implement a number of short-term nuclear restrictions, and for the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany to scale back economic pressure targeting the atomic effort. The pact, which has not yet taken effect, is intended to help those negotiating with Iran to win longer-term restrictions on the initiative widely suspected to be geared toward development of a nuclear-arms capacity.
Zarif said it could prove "difficult" for Iranian negotiators to assure international counterparts that Tehran would not generate weapon-usable plutonium at its Arak heavy-water reactor. Still, he added, Tehran would not accede to international demands to shutter the unfinished site.
"We have reached almost the end game of getting this research reactor into actual operation. So it’s too late in the game for somebody to come and tell us that we have concerns that cannot be addressed," he said.
International Atomic Energy Agency auditors on Sunday traveled to the Arak site for the first time in more than two years, Reuters reported.
Scheduling an IAEA trip to Iran's Gchine uranium mine would likely be one topic of discussion at a Dec. 9-10 meeting between Iranian experts and counterparts from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said. The two-day discussion is also expected to include representatives from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.