U.S. official: no significant sanctions relief for Iran

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Iran will not be granted any significant sanctions relief by world powers until it takes concrete steps and answers international concerns over its nuclear program, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told Al Arabiya’s Rima Maktabi in a special interview aired on Wednesday.

Sherman said Iran is looking for sanctions relief because its economy has been hurt “very deeply,” and wants to bring relief to its people.

“We have not reached any agreement yet, we haven't lifted or removed any sanctions and indeed in the first step there would only be modest, limited reaction in terms of sanctions relief. The fundamental architecture of our sanctions will remain for a comprehensive agreement,” she said.

When Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with the foreign ministers of the P5+1 in October they discussed reaching a comprehensive agreement to end a dispute over Iran’s nuclear program within a year, Sherman said.

But before an agreement is reached within one year, observers say Iran could have a nuclear bomb, rendering any deal meaningless.

Sherman said Iran is required to slow down its nuclear program during negotiations, noting that “very good verification and monitoring” will be needed after an agreement is reached.

“What we want is to make sure that the program does not advance any further, not that they will stop everything but that it will not advance any further from where it is and may in fact roll back somehow while we negotiate a comprehensive agreement,” she said.

Sherman said the engagement with Iran would not affect U.S. relation with the Arab Gulf countries, saying Washington regards its relationship with these countries as a “high priority.”

Sherman’s interview was broadcast as U.S Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting the Middle East to discuss Syria, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.