VIENNA (AP) — As diplomats worked on the next step of implementing a landmark Iran nuclear deal, the country's president described it Tuesday as a "surrender" of Western powers to Tehran's demands.
But the U.S. dismissed the comment as playing to a home audience and urged Iran to abide by the deal. The Nov. 24 agreement commits Tehran to curb its nuclear programs in exchange for initial sanctions relief over six months as the two sides work toward a permanent agreement. The accord designates the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to supervise Iranian compliance with terms of the deal.
The 35-nation IAEA board is expected to approve that role at a meeting set for Jan. 24, according to two diplomats. They demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the date ahead of an official IAEA announcement.
Iranian officials have been keen to portray the pact as advantageous to their country in easing sanctions in return for what they say are minimal nuclear concessions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's remarks about the accord Tuesday appeared to be part of efforts to bring around hard-liners who have denounced the deal, claiming it tramples on Iran's nuclear rights.
"Do you know what the Geneva agreement means? It means the surrender of the big powers before the great Iranian nation," Rouhani told a crowd in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan. "The Geneva agreement means the wall of sanctions has broken. The unfair sanctions were imposed on the revered and peace-loving Iranian nation," he said. "It means an admission by the world of Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
Rouhani's comments drew a dismissive U.S. response. "It doesn't matter what they say," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington, describing the statement as meant for a "domestic audience."
"What matters to us ... is what Iranian leaders do, what Iran does in keeping its commitments in this agreement," said Carney. The U.N. agency did not confirm the board meeting but said separate talks in Tehran between Iran and IAEA experts were postponed from Jan. 21 to Feb. 8.
The IAEA is hoping Iran will agree to cooperate in investigating IAEA suspicions that it worked on nuclear weapons, if not during those talks then subsequent ones. Tehran denies working on — or wanting — such arms.
One of the diplomats said the Iran-IAEA talks were postponed to allow Iran and the agency to prepare for the implementation of the Nov. 24 deal — a view the United States appeared to share. "There's a lot going on around the same time," said Deputy State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf. "So it's not a concern."
Enactment of the Nov. 24 agreement is scheduled to begin Jan. 20.
AP writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran and Nedra Picker and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.