WASHINGTON — The United States on Monday ruled out Iran’s call for a lifting of sanctions, saying that the Islamic republic must first address concerns over its nuclear program in “concrete” ways.
Iran held talks with major powers on Sunday for the first time in 15 months. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi later said that the entire dispute could be quickly resolved if the West shows goodwill by easing sanctions.
“No one’s talking about any sanctions being reversed or canceled at all,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in response.
But Toner said that the United States, echoing a statement by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, was ready to look at incentives in return for progress from Iran.
“We want to see Iran come up with some concrete proposals moving forward and that if that were to happen, we would look at ways — Cathy Ashton’s statement said as much — to reciprocate,” Toner said.
Iran held talks with the six powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — in Istanbul and the seven nations agreed to hold a more substantive round on May 23 in Baghdad.
President Barack Obama’s administration has pushed for more diplomacy amid growing concern by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is concerned that the clerical regime is working to build a nuclear weapon and has not ruled out a preemptive strike.
US President Barack Obama, speaking Sunday on a visit to Colombia, said that the United States has not “given away” anything to Iran after Netanyahu charged that Tehran had received a “freebie” to buy itself extra time.
Toner also denied any “freebie” for Iran, saying: “We’ve got the strongest sanctions in history against Iran right now, and they’re going to get stronger as we move into the summer.”
The United States has threatened sanctions against any nation that buys oil from Iran, piling pressure on the major energy exporter’s economy. Iranian officials contend that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.