WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Thursday that if Iran halts advances and reverses parts of its nuclear program, the United States would offer "modest relief" to ease the economic squeeze on Tehran.
But he said core sanctions against Iran would remain in place and that if Iran's leaders back out of a deal "we can crank that dial back up." Such measures include penalties that have crippled Tehran's oil exports.
Obama, in an interview with NBC Thursday, said negotiations underway in Geneva between Iran and the U.S. and five world powers are not about easing the economic penalties and restrictions that the U.S. and its allies have placed on Iran.
"The negotiations taking place are about how Iran begins to meet its international obligations and provide assurances not just to us but to the entire world...that they are not developing nuclear weapons, that their nuclear energy program is peaceful," Obama said.
Those talks resumed Thursday and Iran's chief negotiator says those countries have accepted Iran's plan. Earlier, White House spokesman Jay Carney wouldn't comment on timing for reaching a deal. The United States has been under pressure from Israel not to yield on sanctions against Iran.
"Our job is not to trust the Iranians," Obama said. "Our job is to put in place mechanisms where we can verify what they're doing and not doing when it comes to their nuclear program." "So we don't have to trust them," he added. "What we have to do is to make sure that there is a good deal in place from the perspective of us verifying what they're doing."
Carney told reporters earlier that the first phase of an agreement would "address Iran's most advanced nuclear activities; increase transparency so Iran will not be able to use the cover of talks to advance its program; and create time and space as we negotiate a comprehensive agreement."