|Gaps in positions over Iran nuclear deal not unbridgeable: diplomat||
A Western diplomat has said there had been some progress during nearly three weeks of nuclear talks between Tehran and the major powers in Vienna and that gaps in positions were not “unbridgeable”, Reuters reported on Sunday.
But, the senior diplomat added, “We cannot accept that Iran stays at current levels of enrichment.”
Iran and the six major powers failed to meet a July 20 deadline for a deal to end the decade-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program, but agreed to keep talking.
The countries agreed to extend the high-stakes negotiations by four months, and let Iran access another $2.8 billion of its cash frozen abroad during that period.
Germany - one of the major powers - said that the extended talks might be the last chance for a long time to reach a peaceful solution.
The six powers want Iran to significantly scale back its uranium enrichment program. Iran says the program is entirely peaceful and wants sanctions that have negatively affected its economy to be lifted as soon as possible.
The announcement to give diplomacy until November 24 came in the early hours of Saturday, a day before the July 20 deadline that Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China had earlier set for an agreement.
“These few months until November could be the last and best chance for a long time to end the nuclear argument peacefully,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
“Iran must show it is willing to dispel all doubts about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program,” he said.
Under the terms of the extension of the negotiations, Iran will be able to access during this time a relatively small portion of an estimated more than $100 billion held abroad, in return for limits to its nuclear program.
It prolongs - with some adjustments - an interim deal hammered out in Geneva last year, under which Iran scaled down some parts of its nuclear work in exchange for some easing of sanctions. The six-month deal - which allowed Iran to receive $4.2 billion - was designed to create time and space for the negotiation of a permanent agreement.
“We are definitely convinced it’s doable, it’s a question of political will,” the senior Western diplomat said. “I think they (Iran) really want to get this done.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Reuters in Cairo that major disagreements remained though some had been resolved.
“If we had thought there was no potential for a deal we would have stopped immediately,” he said.
Some members of the U.S. Congress are eager to impose new and tougher sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials said on Saturday they would continue to oppose new sanctions as long as the negotiations were underway but would drop their opposition if the talks collapsed. “We understand Congress’ desire to hold Iran’s feet to the fire,” one of them said.
Iran says it would be willing to delay development of an industrial-scale uranium enrichment program for up to seven years and to keep the 19,000 centrifuges it has installed so far for this purpose, but Washington says this is still too many.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - who leads the talks for the powers - and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a joint statement that the talks would resume in the coming weeks.
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