Iranian President Hassan Rohani says the Islamic republic is not negotiating with the U.S. Congress on a potential nuclear deal.
"Our counterpart is not the U.S. Senate or the Congress, our counterpart is the group known as P5+1," Rohani said in an April 15 speech in the northern city of Rasht.
The comment came a day after legislation giving the U.S. Congress a vote on any potential final nuclear deal with Iran was unanimously passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The White House suggested President Barack Obama would not veto the version of the bill that was passed by the committee.
The bill sets up a 30-day congressional review period and requires the administration to regularly update Congress on Iran's compliance.
Rohani's comments mark the first official Iranian reaction to the April 14 vote.
"What does the Senate say? What does the Congress want? What are hard-liners in the U.S. after? What are U.S. mercenaries saying in the region? These are not the problem of our government and our people," Rohani was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.
The Iranian president also reiterated Tehran's demand that sanctions imposed on Iran over its sensitive nuclear activities should be lifted when a final nuclear agreement is signed. "If there is no end to sanctions, there will not be an agreement," Rohani said.
Speaking to journalists in Lisbon, Portugal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said President Obama was "responsible" for making sure that Washington respected a final agreement over Iran's nuclear program, despite the green light for the Congress to have a say on the accord.
"It is the obligation of the government of the United States to implement its international agreements. And we will hold the U.S. government, the U.S. president accountable" for the application of the treaties that they sign, Zarif was quoted as saying.
Zarif also said Iran would study the bill "to see if it infringes upon or hinders the capability of the president to carry out the obligations that he is going to assume with Iran."
Iran and the six major world powers reached a tentative nuclear framework agreement in Lausanne on April 2. The agreement paves the way for a final deal that would curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange of sanctions relief.
The deadline for a comprehensive deal is June 30.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari