Only “a few” hurdles remain before world powers negotiating with Iran reach an unprecedented deal that would curtail the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, an Iranian official told AFP Monday.
As foreign ministers chasing a deal by Tuesday’s deadline met for their first full session in the latest round of talks in Vienna, the official said the fate of the negotiations was now in their hands.
Three months ago there were a number of unresolved issues, the official said, asking not to be identified.
But now “there are only a few items left which need to be tackled by the ministers. That is why the ministers are here,” he said.
Experts who have been meeting in Vienna “have moved a lot further” but “there are tough issues ... which were not resolved at expert level or the deputy minister level, those are not easy issues.”
When asked if President Barack Obama’s administration expects the deadline “to slip,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday, “I wouldn’t set any expectations at this point... I would say that it's certainly possible.”
Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are seeking to end a 13-year standoff with Iran which began when dissidents revealed its nuclear program in 2002.
Meanwhile a source close to the Iranian negotiating team told the state news agency IRNA: “The ministerial meeting between Iran and the (six) showed there are still serious differences… But both sides are also serious to resolve the differences.”
Tehran has long denied seeking to develop nuclear arms, and in return for curtailing its atomic industry is demanding an end to biting economic sanctions.
A mechanism for quickly re-imposing sanctions if Iran breaks the deal is one of the hurdles blocking an accord.
Tehran wants a reciprocal so-called “snapback” measure.
“If there are issues that we have for instance in regard to sanctions termination the same procedure has to be applied to that issues as well,” the Iranian official said.
“To put it broadly, snapback is something that needs to be provided to all sides, not only one side.”
He insisted that Iran had already “made a number of concessions, we have shown a good amount of flexibility. I suppose everybody has done so.”
This round of talks in Vienna has already busted through a June 30 deadline, and is now in its 10th straight day.
But all sides have insisted they are not planning a further extension beyond Tuesday’s new deadline.
The Iranian delegation had not even discussed “a possible extension because extension to be honest is not in anybody’s interest,” the official said.
But he conceded: “If we need to stay some more days in Vienna, it is much better to spend some more time here than to go home and then come back.”
(With AFP and Reuters)SHOW MORE