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US says will not ease Iran sanctions before talks

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A senior White House official says the US has no intention of scaling back sanctions on Iran “at the front end” of negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said Thursday that Iran needs to take what he called “concrete steps” over its nuclear energy program before any decision by the US to relax sanctions against the country.

“We are not contemplating anything that removes those sanctions at the front end of any negotiation or agreement, because it’s going to be important to test Iranian intentions,” Rhodes said, adding “Before we could pursue sanctions relief, we’d have to see concrete steps by the Iranians to get at the state of their nuclear program.”

He, however, said that one of the many ways to provide sanctions relief was to release Iran’s frozen assets.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the White House had hosted a meeting of aides to Senate committee leaders on Thursday in a bid to persuade lawmakers to postpone Iran sanctions.

A Senate Banking Committee vote was due on a sanctions bill last month, but it was held back after a request from the Obama administration in order to give time to nuclear talks with Iran.

Iran and six world powers – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – wrapped up two days of negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear energy program in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 15-16. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the talks and agreed to meet again in the Swiss city on November 7-8.

During the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif presented Tehran’s proposal titled, “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis, Opening a New Horizon” to EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and the representatives of the six countries.

The United States, Israel and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, with the US and European Union using the claim as an excuse to impose illegal sanctions against Tehran. The bans come on top of four rounds of US-instigated UN Security Council sanctions against Iran under the same pretext.

Iran has categorically rejected the allegation, stressing that as a committed member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is entitled to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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