Iranian president: Differences remain on nuclear deal
Rowhani's remarks came ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline in talks
Iran's president said disagreements remain between his country and world powers on the details of a final deal aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, as Iranian dissidents accused his government on Wednesday of secretly moving its most sensitive research facilities to hide them from the West.
President Hassan Rowhani's remarks came ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline in talks aimed at preventing Iran from making an atomic weapon in exchange for easing economic sanctions. Failure to conclude the deal could mean that the whole negotiating process, years in the making, falls apart.
Iran's assessment that only details separate the two sides is optimistic. The talks are stuck over the size and output of Iran's uranium enrichment program, a possible pathway to nuclear arms. Iran denies it wants nuclear weapons, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as power generation.
Rowhani told Iranian lawmakers Tuesday night that Iran and the six-nation group have agreed to let Iran maintain its enrichment program, keep its heavy water reactor in the city of Arak and operate its underground enrichment facility at Fordo.
"The only differences (that remain) are about details and quantity," Iranian state TV quoted Rowhani as saying, without elaborating.
But Iranian dissidents accused the government of moving nuclear weapons research to a new location in Tehran "in recent months" to escape detention.
The Mujahedin-e Khalk, which has been fighting to overthrow the Islamic Republic since shortly after the 1979 revolution that toppled a pro-Western monarchy, cited unnamed Iranian government sources and provided no evidence. An official from a country critical of Iran's nuclear program, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the record about intelligence matters, said the information jibes with his country's intelligence.
The dissidents said the research is being carried out by Iran's Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research. The United States has placed sanctions on that agency, which is says is "primarily responsible for research in the field of nuclear weapons."
Iran had no immediate comment. Its mission to the U.N. nuclear agency said nobody was available to provide reaction.
The talks resume next week in Vienna, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union negotiator Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia join soon after in another round of talks.
The West is reluctant to agree to a deal that would leave Iran on the threshold of developing nuclear weapons. Iran has invested billions in its nuclear infrastructure and says it won't dismantle a program of energy production that it considers its inherent right.