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Iran leaders strike tough bargaining stance in nuclear talks

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Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any agreement must include an immediate end to economic sanctions that have hammered Iran’s economy.

Iran’s supreme leader and its more moderate president staked out tough bargaining stances Thursday on nuclear negotiations that could threaten a final deal.

In his first comments since the interim agreement struck last week in Switzerland, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any agreement must include an immediate end to economic sanctions that have hammered Iran’s economy.

“Sanctions should be lifted completely, on the very day of the deal,” Khaemei said in a televised speech to a group of religious poets.

His statements tracked those of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who vowed earlier that Iran “will not sign any agreement unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal.”

SCHANZER: DESPITE NUCLEAR DEAL, CAN IRAN BE TRUSTED?

That’s a challenge to President Obama and top U.S. officials who insist the sanctions will only begin to be gradually phased out once international monitors verify Iran is abiding by the limitations spelled out in the agreement.

“The process of sanctions suspension or relief will only begin after Iran has completed its major nuclear steps and the breakout time has been increased to at least a year,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

The conflict comes as two countries, along with negotiators from five other states that are part of the tentative deal, prepare for a final round of talks aimed at codifying the interim bargain in a written agreement ahead of a June 30 deadline.

But analysts privately saw positives signs in Khamenei’s words. While the Supreme Leader may have struck a tough tone to ensure backing from other Iranian hardliners, he also signaled support for the negotiations.

“I neither support nor oppose the deal. Everything is in the details, it may be that the deceptive other side wants to restrict us in the details,” he said

He warned about the “devilish” intentions of the United States and cautioned the world powers in involved in talks are “not to be trusted”

But he repeated his faith in Iran’s negotiators, and said a deal would show talks are possible on issues beyond the nuclear program.

“If you read between the lines, the supreme leader said he is willing to approve an extension of the talks,” said Haleh Esfandiari, who directs the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

NOV. 6, 2014 FILE PHOTOErik Schelzig/AP

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote next week on legislation by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), pictured, that would give Congress power to block an agreement with Iran.

Still, tough talk from Iran could increase U.S. opposition to the framework deal.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote next week on legislation by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that would give Congress power to block an agreement with Iran.

The White House opposes the bill and is pushing senators to delay action on the measure until after June 30.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has given Corker key Democratic backing, declined Thursday to say if he supports a delay in Senate consideration of the measure.

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dfriedman@nydailynews.com

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