TEHRAN — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that he’s seeking the removal of all sanctions against his country during negotiations with world powers on a nuclear deal.
“We want an agreement that protects our dignity and respect,” Rouhani said in Tehran, as he addressed a few thousand people at a rally to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that deposed the U.S.-backed shah.
The speed at which sanctions are rolled back under a possible deal emerged as one of the main sticking points in earlier rounds of talks. The restrictions on trade and access to financial markets have slashed Iran’s oil exports, the backbone of the country’s economy.
Iran and a group of six nations, led by the United States, are trying to resolve a 12-year dispute over the intent behind Iran’s nuclear program. The international group says it wants to ensure that Iran is unable to pursue a nuclear weapon. Iran says its program is intended for civilian uses.
In his speech Wednesday, Rouhani said the goal of the negotiations was a “win-win” outcome, with Iran showing transparency in pursuing peaceful nuclear energy in exchange for a removal of “wrong, inhumane and illegal” sanctions imposed on the country.
Rouhani’s policy of engaging with the United States and its allies has been criticized by his opponents in Tehran, most of whom are hard-liners distrustful of involvement with Iran’s long-standing foe. At Wednesday’s rally, conservative demonstrators held placards saying “Death to America” and chanted slogans, including, “An agreement without conditions; America has to remove sanctions!”
On Sunday, Iran’s highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hinted that he could accept a deal in which neither side got everything it wanted and gave his strongest defense yet of Rouhani’s decision to negotiate with the West.
Khamenei, however, also warned it would be better to have no agreement with the powers than have a bad agreement with them.
The negotiations between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain face an initial deadline for a basic framework agreement at the end of March and a June 30 deadline for a final settlement. U.S. and Iranian officials suggest those deadlines are unlikely to change.
President Obama said Monday that extending the March deadline would not be useful if Iran did not agree to a framework assuring world powers that it is not pursuing a nuclear arms capability.