|Major powers plan strategy to rescue Iran nuclear deal||
Senior diplomats from the six major powers met in Brussels on Thursday to search for ways to resuscitate negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program, with less than four weeks left until a late-July deadline to strike an accord, Reuters reported.
Western officials have said very little progress has been made after five rounds of talks since February toward striking a deal that could resolve the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program, which has dragged on for over a decade.
Iran said the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) made “excessive demands” in the latest round of talks which ended on June 20.
In the coming weeks, the sides will have to decide how far they are willing to go to help resolve major sticking points such as the extent of uranium enrichment capacity Iran would be allowed to keep under any deal and the future of its nuclear sites.
The major powers want Iran to cut down the number of its uranium centrifuges in operation.
Iran denies claims that it may be seeking to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons and wants to construct more of centrifuge machines, which spin at supersonic speed to increase the ratio of the fissile isotope in uranium, to meet its goal of energy production.
Both sides have said publicly their goal is to have a deal by July 20 and avoid a difficult extension of an interim accord which expires then and grants Iran modest relief from economic sanctions in return for some constraints on its nuclear work.
“The meeting affirmed the determination of the (six nations) to reach a comprehensive agreement by July 20,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s spokesman, Michael Mann, said in a statement.
Privately, Western diplomats say they would be willing to consider extending the interim deal and continuing talks beyond July 20 only if an agreement was clearly in sight.
Some say talks may be extended by a few days or weeks, but only if the sides need more time to iron out technical details of an otherwise clear deal. Even a full, six-month extension envisaged as a possibility under the interim agreement may be acceptable only if a deal is in sight, according to others.
A new round of talks starts on July 2 and will continue until at least July 15.
Other than Iran’s enrichment capacity, other issues that will need to be part of the final deal are the schedule of sanctions relief, the timeframe of the deal and the extent of monitoring in Iran by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.
Diplomats have said there is little clear agreement on any of the main issues but some have cited the length of a future deal as one of those easier to solve.
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