Iran deadline extended as nuclear talks 'near finishing line'


Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers were extended into Thursday as negotiators edged towards agreement but failed to finalise crucial details, such as how to lift UN sanctions and whether to reinstate them if Iran reneges on a deal.


French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said late on Wednesday that Iran still had to make more effort to reach a preliminary political accord, but Tehran and the six powers were in the final and most difficult stages.

“We are a few metres from the finishing line, but it’s always the last metres that are the most difficult. We will try to cross them,” Fabius said on his return to the talks in Lausanne.

“It’s not done yet. We want a robust and verifiable agreement and there are still points where there needs to be progress especially on the Iranian side,” he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry postponed his departure from the talks for a second time and will remain through Thursday morning, the State Department said.

The extension follows after the talks failed to reach a preliminary agreement by a Tuesday midnight deadline.

Negotiators have not agreed on all the key details central to a political framework that would form the basis of a future nuclear agreement, diplomats close to the talks said on Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier that negotiators had reached a general accord on “all key aspects,” according to Russia’s TASS news agency, while a diplomat close to the talks denied that any such agreement had been reached.

The six powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – aim to stop Iran from gaining the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for easing the international sanctions that are crippling its economy.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for energy purposes only.

Any agreement would almost certainly lift sanctions only in stages, deferring even a partial return of Iranian crude exports until at least 2016. Sanctions have halved Iran’s oil exports to just over 1 million barrels per day since the sanctions were put in place in 2012.

The Guardian's Julian Borger reports from the Iranian nuclear talks

A senior Iranian negotiator said Tehran was willing to negotiate until any deadlock was resolved.

“Iran does not want a nuclear deal just for the sake of having a deal, and a final deal should guarantee the Iranian nation’s nuclear rights,” the negotiator, Hamid Baidinejad, told reporters.

But White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in Washington on Tuesday that US negotiators would not wait until the June 30 deadline for a final deal to walk away from the talks if they could not reach a preliminary agreement.

“If we’re not able to reach a political agreement, then we’re not going to wait ... until June 30 to walk away,” he said.

Speaking in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande said it would be better to have no deal than a bad deal.

Sticking points

Officials from both sides said the main sticking points were the removal of the UN sanctions, provisions for their possible reinstatement, and Iranian demands for the right to research and develop advanced nuclear centrifuges after the first 10 years of the agreement expires.

Officials said Iran was still demanding the lifting of all UN sanctions and insists that they not be reinstated without further negotiations.

Britain, France and the United States want any roll-back of UN sanctions to be automatically reversible, but the Russians dislike this provision because it would weaken their veto power over the deal.

The six powers also want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work. Their goal is to find a way to ensure that, for at least the next 10 years, Iran is at least one year away from being able to produce enough fissile material for an atomic weapon.

Iran said the main issue for Tehran was lifting sanctions quickly.

“There will be no agreement if the sanctions issue cannot be resolved,” Majid Takhteravanchi, an Iranian negotiator, told Iran’s Fars news agency.


Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, speaks to FRANCE 24

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