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Iran to seek end to 'cruel' sanctions on energy

Iran's president says economy coping despite Western pressures.

By Daniel J. Graeber

TEHRAN, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Iran will tread carefully in negotiations with world powers with the aim of ensuring relief from sanctions targeting the energy sector, Iran's president said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke Monday before the Central Bank of Iran, saying he was confident international sanctions will come to an end.

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Western powers "have no other choice" but to work to find an agreeable solution to the nuclear impasse, he said.

High-level talks are scheduled this week in Geneva, less than a month after multilateral negotiations in Vienna failed to bear fruit.

Iran secured modest relief from sanctions one year ago during multilateral talks. Under the terms of an agreement, Iran can export about 1 million barrels of oil per day if it maintains its commitment to curb nuclear activity.

Rouhani characterized existing sanctions as "cruel," but added the Iranian economy was coping with pressure on its energy sector. Inflation was down, he said, and Iranian officials were busy working to draft a budget that reflects the bear market for crude oil.

Iran is out more than $35 billion in oil revenue since it agreed to a multilateral joint action plan with its nuclear negotiating partners last year.

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The World Bank said in an October report the Iranian economy is contracting, but at a slower pace than before. Sanctions imposed on the Iranian energy sector in response to its nuclear program resulted in a real gross domestic product contraction of 5.8 percent last year.

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