Iran’s leaders warn that sanctions could still threaten nuclear deal

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stopped short of giving his endorsement to the framework nuclear deal struck last week between Tehran and world powers.

It comes as the country’s president warned separately that Tehran’s approval of a final deal depends on the immediate lifting of all sanctions related to its controversial nuclear programme.

The comments, taken together, could represent simply a tough bargaining stance by the Islamic Republic ahead of the next round of negotiations in the countdown to the final deal expected by June 30.

But President Hassan Rouhani’s demand of an immediate and full sanctions relief is likely to complicate efforts to reach a final deal.

“We will not sign any agreement unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal,” Mr Rouhani said during a ceremony marking Iran’s nuclear technology day, which celebrates the country’s nuclear achievements.

Iran and the six world powers agreed last week in Switzerland on a framework deal, which is meant to curb Iran’s bomb-capable technology while giving Tehran quick access to bank accounts, oil markets and financial assets blocked by international sanctions.

But the framework deal does not include the immediate lifting of punitive sanctions imposed on Iran. Instead, it says the sanctions will be suspended once international monitors verify that Tehran is abiding by the limitations spelled out in the agreement.

The deal also specifies that if at any time Iran fails to fulfil its commitments, these sanctions would snap back into place.

The framework agreement has received endorsement by much of the Iranian establishment, though hard-liners have overwhelmingly opposed it and described the deal as a “defeat” for Iran.