Further extension to Iran nuclear talks

2015-07-07 18:02
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Vienna - Extra time will be needed for talks to find a way to set controls on Iran's nuclear programme that are acceptable to all parties involved, EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday in Vienna.

"We are taking the days we still need to finalise the agreement, which is something that is still possible, even if now we are getting into a difficult time," said Mogherini, who chairs the group of foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, the countries in the talks with Iran.

She said the group will need several more days of talks, as they have not been able to clear the most difficult hurdles towards a deal.

It was the second time since July 2 that chief diplomats have extended negotiations on an accord that would prevent the Islamic republic from making nuclear weapons, in turn ending the country's international isolation.

US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that significant progress has been made since the current round of talks started on June 27 in the Austrian capital, but added that there are "high stakes for all the countries involved".

"We're frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock ...," she added.

If a deal comes later than Thursday, a date set by US Congress, the US legislature would get 60 instead of just 30 days to review it before it comes into effect, thus giving additional time to US and Iranian hardliners for lobbying against it.

While the US administration has had to defend the planned accord against sceptics in Congress, in Israel and among Gulf countries, Iranian hardliners are worried that it would boost the popularity of moderate President Hassan Rowhani.

10 issues remain

Around 10 issues remain to be solved before an agreement can be clinched, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"Our experts have already started working on it," he said, adding that several foreign ministers from the sextet would leave Vienna and would return at a later date.

Iran and the sextet still disagree on the timing and sequence of lifting the complex web of economic and military sanctions that Western countries and the United Nations have imposed to pressure Tehran into negotiating a deal.

When to scrap UN measures that target Iran's ballistic missile programme and its trade with conventional arms is among the issues that still have to be worked out.

The level of access that Tehran will grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor the Iranian nuclear programme has also been disputed.

However, a spokesperson of Iran's nuclear technology agency said much progress has been made on this issue during a visit of senior IAEA officials that ended Tuesday in Tehran.

"Iran and the IAEA have taken an important stride in resolving the remaining issues by achieving a general understanding on the timetable of joint co-operation," the spokesperson was quoted as saying by IRNA news agency.

He was referring to the investigation of alleged nuclear weapons research that the IAEA will have to conduct under the deal.

Besides looking into these past research projects, the IAEA will also be tasked with monitoring whether Iran honours its obligation under the deal and scales down various nuclear activities.

Iran and the sextet already agreed in April in Lausanne on the extent of these nuclear curbs.

Iran will have to shut down two-thirds of its uranium enrichment plants and get rid of nearly all of its enriched uranium stockpile. The Arak reactor will be converted into a type that does not produce plutonium as a by-product.

While Iran says it does not seek nuclear weapons, the six powers have been worried that these civilian nuclear activities could be used to turn reactor fuel or nuclear waste into warheads.

Read more on:    iaea  |  iran  |  iran nuclear programme

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