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White House cautious about Iran relations as nuclear report nears

Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, about 746 miles south of Tehran, in this file picture taken October 26, 2010.


WASHINGTON -- Amid signs that a decision to provide Iran with billions of dollars in nuclear sanctions relief is imminent, the White House cautioned that the United States will not seek to establish diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Friday the U.S. will not also not normalize relations with Iran after the landmark nuclear deal is fully implemented, reports CBS News foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan.

Rhodes said he expects new sanctions to be rolled out "relatively soon" related to Iran's recent ballistic missile launches.

He said the U.S. trade embargo on Iran remains, so most of the new business flow into Iran will be international. There is "not going to be a flood" of business into Iran because there is "still a tangled web" of sanctions.

According to Rhodes, the U.S. is testing whether Iran can be "constructive"‎ by how it engages in diplomacy to end the war in Syria.

The State Department said Friday Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and a top European Union official.

Kerry, Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will gather in Vienna, the home of the U.N. atomic watchdog, to discuss the "steady progress" that has been made toward implementing last July's landmark agreement in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Diplomats said earlier this week that the International Atomic Energy Agency is just days away from certifying that Iran has met its obligations and an announcement could come this weekend. Officials said Friday that Saturday is the target date for the announcement.

Such a finding would result in the termination of sanctions against Iran that were imposed because it had refused to prove that its atomic program is peaceful.

The White House said Friday it was not yet ready to suspend U.S. economic sanctions against Iran because its compliance with the nuclear deal had not been verified.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Iran is making important progress toward curbing its nuclear program and it's possible the Islamic Republic has already completed all the necessary steps.

But Earnest said Iran won't get any sanctions relief until the IAEA verifies all steps have been completed. The United States, he said, wants to make sure Iran doesn't "cut any corners."