Election looming, hardliners sabotage goal to lift sanctions: says Rouhani

So far, Iran and the Biden administration are at loggerheads over which side should move first to revive the agreement, with Tehran demanding Washington first lift sanctions and Washington calling on Tehran first to resume compliance with the deal

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DUBAI: Iran’s pragmatist president accused hardline opponents on Wednesday of obstructing efforts to lift U.S. sanctions, in remarks that demonstrate how an upcoming election in Iran is now looming over the new US administration’s plan for a thaw.

“It is a great betrayal of the Iranian nation if any faction or person delays the end of the sanctions even for one hour,” Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks.

“The small minority that is obstructing this path needs to stop its destructive act. If it stops … the government can break the sanctions,” Rouhani added without elaborating.

The new US administration of President Joe Biden aims to revive an agreement abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump, under which Iran accepted curbs to its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions. After Trump quit the pact and reimposed sanctions, Iran took steps that violate the deal’s nuclear limits.

So far, Iran and the Biden administration are at loggerheads over which side should move first to revive the agreement, with Tehran demanding Washington first lift sanctions and Washington calling on Tehran first to resume compliance with the deal.

“Today, conditions are better than ever for the lifting of the sanctions,” Rouhani said on Wednesday. The Americans, he said, are willing to return to the deal. However, he added: “Words are not enough. We are waiting for action.”

Rouhani’s close ally Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said this week that unless progress is made soon on restoring the nuclear deal, diplomacy would be halted for months by Iran’s presidential election scheduled for June 18.

On Tuesday France’s foreign minister blamed Iranian pre-election politics for hindering the nuclear deal’s revival.

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