Iran on Thursday dismissed as “unrealistic and unconstructive” comments by US President Barack Obama that international sanctions linked to its nuclear programme had forced Tehran to the negotiating table.
“The delusion of sanctions having an effect on Iran’s motivation for nuclear negotiations is based on a false narration of history,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.
Obama, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, said US and international pressure had led to the interim deal struck in November between Iran and six global powers, under which Tehran agreed to scale back uranium enrichment in return for sanctions relief.
“American diplomacy, backed by pressure, has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme and rolled parts of that programme back,” Obama said.
“The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible,” he added.
Afkham, in comments posted on the IRIB website, dismissed Obama’s comments.
“It is a totally wrong interpretation of Tehran’s interest to create an opportunity for Western countries to have another kind of relation with the Iranian nation,” she said.
Afkham also rejected Obama’s assertion that diplomacy had opened a window which could forestall any possible nuclear weapons drive by Iran.
“America considers preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon to be its biggest achievement, but it is wrong since Iran has never sought to obtain a nuclear weapon and will never do so in future,” she said.
Iran has repeatedly rejected suggestions that economic sanctions had forced it to the negotiating table, although last year then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad admitted the punitive measures had caused “problems”.
The Islamic republic has also consistently denied its nuclear programme has a military dimension, as suspected by Western nations which imposed the sanctions.
Under the deal struck in Geneva in November, Washington committed to “refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions” for six months while world powers seek to hammer out a comprehensive settlement with Iran.
Obama has also pledged to veto any bill by US lawmakers to impose new sanctions against Iran, warning the move could derail the talks.
The negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — are scheduled to resume in New York next month.