Lifting of sanctions to start within days of deal: Iran's Zarif

By Louis Charbonneau NEW YORK (Reuters) - The signing of a nuclear agreement with Iran will prompt the United Nations, European Union and United States to begin lifting sanctions on the Islamic Republic within days afterwards, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday. His comments appeared roughly consistent, and offered additional details on, previous statements from Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has said all sanctions must be lifted immediately if an agreement is reached. "If we have an agreement on June 30, within a few days after that we will have a resolution in the Security Council under Article 41 of chapter 7 (of the U.N. Charter) which will be mandatory for all member states," Zarif told an audience at New York University. He said that resolution would endorse the deal, terminate previous U.N. sanctions resolutions and "set in place the termination of EU sanctions and cessation of application of U.S. sanctions." A new resolution would also reimpose some U.N. restrictions, diplomats have said, including an arms embargo and some curbs on trafficking of sensitive nuclear- and missile-related items. In an earlier interview with the Public Broadcasting Service, Zarif indicated flexibility, saying sanctions would be lifted "as soon as Iran implements its agreed part." U.S. and European officials have said sanctions would be lifted in phases based on confirmation of Iranian compliance from the International Atomic Energy Agency. U.S. officials have said such confirmation could take months. Zarif said the entire process should last "only a few weeks" for sanctions to be lifted. Zarif, who is in New York for the five-year review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, voiced confidence that disagreements between Washington and Tehran over issues like the timing of the lifting of sanctions and other sticking points could be resolved in upcoming negotiations. "I don't think the problems are insurmountable," he said, adding that "everybody has to be flexible, everybody has to compromise." Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China reached a tentative framework deal on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland. They have a June 30 deadline for a comprehensive agreement. Zarif said senior Foreign Ministry officials and deputy foreign ministers from Iran and the powers on the other side of the table would resume negotiations on a final nuclear deal on Thursday. He suggested those talks would take place in New York. Iran's top diplomat said the negotiators would begin drafting a final nuclear agreement, which is aimed at lifting sanctions in exchange for curbs on sensitive atomic work. Such a deal would end a 12-year nuclear standoff between Iran and the West. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said lower-level officials were already negotiating on Wednesday and it was unclear when it would move to a higher level. Asked if the deadline could be extended, Zarif said Tehran wanted the deal to be concluded before the end of June, but suggested that if negotiators were making good progress by then but had not completed their work, a brief extension could be possible. "No time deadline is sacrosanct," he said. Members of the U.S. Congress insist on reviewing any agreement with Iran before it takes effect, largely over Israeli concerns shared by many in Congress over Iran's nuclear capabilities. Zarif said Tehran does not want "to get bogged down into the domestic procedures of the United States" and was negotiating with the government. He also said Iran was committed to maintaining freedom of navigation in the Gulf in the aftermath of the seizure of a commercial ship by Iranian forces on Tuesday. "For us, freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf is a must," he said. (Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese, W Simon, Toni Reinhold and Leslie Adler)