News / Middle East

US: Talk of Easing Iran Sanctions 'Premature'

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Aug. 22, 2013. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Aug. 22, 2013.
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Aug. 22, 2013.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Aug. 22, 2013.
Michael Bowman
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says talk of a possible easing of U.S. sanctions against Iran is premature, despite last week’s discussions in Geneva on the country’s disputed nuclear program. 

The White House has described the recent talks between Western diplomats and Iran as displaying a new level of “seriousness and substance.” But, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press program, Secretary Lew gave no indication the Obama administration is contemplating a pullback on sanctions, at least not yet.

“It is premature to talk about the easing. I think the sanctions are working, and that is why the discussions have started. We need to see that they [Iranian officials] are taking the steps to move away from having nuclear weapons capacity," said Lew. "We need to see real, tangible evidence of it. And we will not make moves on the sanctions until we see those kinds of moves [from Iran].”

Also appearing on NBC was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that what matters are end results, not any Iranian statements of intent. “The question is not of hope. The question is of actual result. And the result has to be the full dismantling of Iran’s nuclear military program. If that is achieved, that would be very good. If it is achieved peacefully, it is even better,” he said.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and despite international sanctions has resisted demands it stop enriching uranium.  

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif last week spoke about hopes for ending what he called an “unnecessary crisis.” “There are more important issues that we need to deal with. And the right of Iran to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, including enrichment, can, in fact, be exercised, with the necessary political will, without any proliferation concerns,” he sated.

The Geneva talks featured Iran and the group known as the P5+1, which includes the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain -- plus Germany.

The discussions were the first since Iran's new president, relative moderate Hassan Rouhani, was elected in June.  The two sides meet again next month.

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