TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's top leader on Thursday stopped short of giving his endorsement to the framework nuclear deal struck last week between Teheran and world powers, while the country's president warned separately that Tehran's approval of a final deal depends on the immediate lifting of all sanctions related to its controversial nuclear program.
The comments, taken together, could represent simply a tough bargaining stance by the Islamic Republic ahead of a final deal, which is expected by June 30. But President Hassan Rouhani's demand of an immediate full sanctions relief is likely to complicate efforts to reach a final deal.
"We will not sign any agreement, unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal," Rouhani said. He spoke during a ceremony marking Iran's nuclear technology day, which celebrates the country's nuclear achievements.
Iran and the six world powers agreed last week on a framework deal, which is meant to curb Iran's bomb-capable technology while giving Tehran quick access to bank accounts, oil markets and financial assets blocked by international sanctions.
But the framework deal does not include the immediate lifting of punitive sanctions imposed on Iran. Instead, it says the sanctions will be suspended once international monitors verify that Tehran is abiding by the limitations spelled out in the agreement.
The deal also specifies that if at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions would snap back into place.
The framework agreement has received endorsement by much of the Iranian establishment, though hard-liners have overwhelmingly opposed it and described the deal as a "defeat" for Iran.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks published on his official website Thursday that he "is neither for nor against" the deal.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, added that there "is no binding" agreement yet.
The West long has feared Iran's nuclear program could allow it to build an atomic bomb. Iran denies the charge and says its program is for peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment
Rouhani described the framework deal as evidence that Iran has "not surrendered to a policy of pressure, sanctions and bullying."
"This is our victory," said Rouhani.