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Nuke talks to miss target; Iran fm heads home

German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) attend a meeting at the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks

German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) attend a meeting at the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks

VIENNA: A senior US official acknowledged yesterday that Iran nuclear talks will go past their June 30 target date, as Iran’s foreign minister prepared to head home yesterday for consultations before returning to push for a breakthrough. Iranian media said Mohammed Javad Zarif’s trip was planned in advance. Still, the fact that he was leaving the talks so close to the Tuesday deadline reflected his need to get instructions on how to proceed on issues where the sides remain apart - among them how much access Tehran should give to UN experts monitoring his country’s compliance to any deal.

The United States insists on more intrusive access than Iran is ready to give. With these and other disputes still unresolved the likelihood that the Tuesday target deadline for an Iran nuclear deal could slip was increasingly growing even before the US confirmation. US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Vienna for their third encounter since Saturday. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius are also in Vienna, and their Russian and British counterparts were to join later. China was sending a deputy foreign minister in a building diplomatic effort to wrap up the negotiations.

Continue to work
For weeks, all seven nations at the negotiating table insisted that tomorrow remains the formal deadline for a deal. But with time running out, a senior US official acknowledged that was unrealistic. “Given the dates, and that we have some work to do ... the parties are planning to remain in Vienna beyond June 30 to continue working,” said the official, who demanded anonymity in line with State Department practice. Asked about the chances for a deal, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, told reporters: “It’s going to be tough ... but not impossible.” Steinmeier avoided reporters but told German media earlier: “I am convinced that if there is no agreement, everyone loses.” “Iran would remain isolated. A new arms race in a region that is already riven by conflict could be the dramatic consequence.” Both sides recognize that there is leeway to extend to July 9. As part of an agreement with the US Congress, lawmakers then have 30 days to review the deal before suspending congressional sanctions. But postponement beyond that would double the congressional review period to 60 days, giving both Iranian and US critics more time to work on undermining an agreement.

Arguing for more time to allow the US to drive a harder bargain, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - a fierce opponent of the talks - weighed in yesterday against “this bad agreement, which is becoming worse by the day.” “It is still not too late to go back and insist on demands that will genuinely deny Iran the ability to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” he said. The goal of the talks involving Iran and the US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia is a deal that would crimp Tehran’s capacity to make nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran insists it does not want such arms but is bargaining in exchange for sanctions relief On Saturday, diplomats told The Associated Press that Iran was considering a US-backed plan for it to send enriched uranium to another country for sale as reactor fuel, a step that would resolve one of several outstanding issues.

‘No deal better than bad deal’
No nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is better than a “bad deal”, Britain’s foreign minister said yesterday as he arrived for talks just days before a deadline for an accord. “We still have very big challenges if we are going to be able to get this deal done,” Philip Hammond told reporters in Vienna. “I have said many times before and I will say it again today, no deal is better than a bad deal. There are red lines that we cannot cross and some very difficult decisions and tough choices are going to have to be made by all of us,” he said. Hammond was due to join US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their French, German and EU counterparts aiming to finalize a historic accord by Tuesday. China and Russia, the other two countries in the sixcountry group, were represented by deputy foreign ministers. Officials on both sides have said that the deadline may be missed, but only by a few days. According to a framework deal agreed in April, Iran will sharply reduce its nuclear program in scale and submit to tighter UN inspections in order to make any drive to make an atomic bomb virtually impossible. In return Iran, which denies seeking the bomb, will see painful sanctions lifted. Tough remaining issues include the timing and pace of the sanctions relief and UN access to Iranian military bases. — Agencies

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This article was published on 28/06/2015