TEHRAN, Jun. 12 (MNA) – U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman has said that there is still time to resolve the decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic channels.
Sherman made the remarks in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL published on Sunday.
Following are excerpts of the text of the interview:
RFE/RL: An increasing number of former diplomats and experts have argued in recent weeks that the United States’ efforts to end Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities have focused solely on pressure – it’s “dual track” only in name, they say — and that the current approach is not likely to make Iran change course. What do you say to that?
Sherman: The onus is really on Iran’s government to decide what it wants to do. It can have the sanctions gone in a moment if, indeed, it will substantively and constructively negotiate with the P5+1.
… we have been ready to have negotiations on the entire program to lift sanctions. As the president himself has said, Secretary [of State John] Kerry has said, Iran will be able to have a peaceful nuclear program once it meets all of its international obligations and responsibilities according to UN Security Council resolutions and then Iran can go about a more normal life.
RFE/RL: But what is your response to the criticism that your policy is not going to make Iran give up its sensitive nuclear activities?
Sherman: Well, I think it’s very useful for us to listen to voices and to ideas that other people have. We take them all into account and make sure that we are on a path that we think can get to a constructive outcome. We believe we are. The P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) is completely united in its approach, so we will always take on other people’s ideas, thoughts, and criticisms and test them against what we’re doing. But right now, all of the P5+1 is united on the path forward.
RFE/RL: Will there be a point when there is nothing left to sanction? What will the U.S. do then?
Sherman: I think that there is still a ways to go. The president has said there is still time for negotiations. We all strongly prefer a peaceful outcome. No one wants to go down another path. But the president has also said all options are on the table.
So we still have time for a peaceful resolution and we must make every effort to get one. That time is not indefinite, but there is still time.
RFE/RL: There are reports from Iran that the sanctions are making life for ordinary Iranians difficult. You said it yourself, that people live under difficult conditions. One woman in Tehran recently told me that she feels the U.S. is punishing the Iranian people with the sanctions. Are you concerned that Iran’s public opinion could gradually turn against the U.S. because of the sanctions?
Sherman: First of all, we have been very careful to make sure that food, medicine, and medical devices are all exempt from any sanctions. So we have, in fact, sent teams around the world to tell pharmaceutical companies, to tell medical-device companies, to tell food companies, that they may, in fact, send those materials into Iran. They will not be sanctioned in any way, shape, or form. And where there have been problems we have tried to resolve those problems.
RFE/RL: The U.S. last week lifted sanctions on the sale of technology to Iran. Some critics have dismissed the move as a feel-good gesture as it is not likely to have any immediate impact because of the financial sanctions that are in place. Have you given companies guarantees?
Sherman: We have gone out to companies around the world and made clear to them that they have a general license now. They don’t have to come for specific permissions. They can sell in software, hardware, and they will not be sanctioned… We want to make sure that the Iranian people, if they choose to, can communicate with each other safely and securely.
RFE/RL: Iranians will go to the polls to choose their next president in less than a week. You’ve said that the U.S. doesn’t take sides. But wouldn’t it be easier to deal with Iran if a moderate president were elected?
Sherman: This is really a choice for the Iranian people, not for the United States. And it is our understanding where the nuclear file is concerned, the decision really rests with the supreme leader, and that is where these choices and decisions are being made.
By Mehr News
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