U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday a deal with Iran could be reached within months if Tehran proves that its nuclear program was not being used to build atomic weapons.
In an interview with CBS's “60 Minutes” program, Kerry said the stated desire by Iranian President Hassan Rowhani for an agreement within three to six months could be met sooner if Iran satisfied certain conditions.
“It's possible to have a deal sooner than that -- depending on how forthcoming -- and clear Iran is prepared to be,” Kerry said.
“We need to have a good deal here. And a good deal means that it is absolutely accountable, failsafe in its measures to make certain this is a peaceful program.
“If it is a peaceful program, and we can all see that -- the whole world sees that -- the relationship with Iran can change dramatically for the better and it can change fast,” Kerry added.
The Secretary of State also said the U.S. would not consider lifting sanctions against Iran until it was clear that a “verifiable, accountable, transparent process” was in place.
He also said that providing that Iran takes concrete steps, the U.S. could consider lifting sanctions “by setting up a process that shows them how they can have this peaceful program without disturbing our efforts to make sure that no country is now going to build nuclear weapons.”
“Iran needs to take rapid, clear and convincing steps to live up to the international community’s requirements regarding peaceful nuclear programs,” Kerry told CBS anchor Scott Pelley .
He also added that President Obama clearly welcomes Rowhani’s overtures but that words are not going to replace actions.
“We need actions that prove that we and our allies in the region can never be threatened by this program.”
Kerry said that Iran would demonstrate that it had no ambitions for nuclear weapons if it opened up for international inspection an underground nuclear enrichment facility in the mountains near the city of Qom.
“They could immediately open up the inspection of the Fordow facility, a secret facility underground in the mountains,” Kerry said.
“They could immediately sign the protocols, the additional protocols of the international community regarding inspections,” he added.
“They could offer to cease voluntarily to take enrichment about a certain level, because there's no need to have it at a higher level for a peaceful program.”
Kerry's comments signaled marked improvement in relations between the U.S. and Iran, as he met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif.
Rowhani had a 15-minute telephone conversation with Obama on Friday, the first contact between leaders of the two countries in more than three decades.
The rapprochement has raised the prospect of an agreement being reached about Iran's nuclear program, which Western countries suspect that it is designed to build a nuclear weapon.
Iran denies the charge and in his U.N. address, Rowhani said that “nuclear weapons... have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine.”