Iran and the West scramble to strike deal before deadline

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Foreign ministers are engaged in a frenzied day of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna days before a deadline to strike a mammoth agreement. Duration: 01:08

Iran and the West scramble to strike deal before deadline

Iran FM mulls Tehran consultations as deal deadline nears

Iran’s foreign minister considered Friday returning to Tehran for “consultations” following talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, three days before a deadline to strike a landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

Kerry himself was also due later Friday to leave the high-stakes ongoing talks in Vienna for Paris for talks with European counterparts and will “stay in close touch” with Washington, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

“His future travel schedule is still being finalised, and we have not yet determined when he will return to Vienna,” Psaki said as Kerry ended a meeting with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“Zarif will perhaps return this evening to Tehran for consultations,” a source close to the Iranian negotiators said.

Iran and the six powers — the US, China, Russia, Britain, France plus Germany — have been negotiating intensively since February to turn an interim accord with Iran reached a year ago into a lasting agreement before November 24.

Such a deal, after 12 years of rising tensions, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities — an ambition the Islamic republic has denied.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius joined the talks in the Austrian capital Friday urging Iran to “seize this opportunity” for a deal while British counterpart Philip Hammond called for Iranian “flexibility”.

“The prize for Iran is huge — access to very large amounts of frozen assets, the ability to trade freely with the world again and the ability to reset relationships with the international community,” Hammond said.

He warned, though, that “we have a long way to go if we are to get to a deal before the deadline on Monday”.

“Flexibility” from the Iranians was needed and would be reciprocated. However “time is short,” he stressed.

Most analysts expect Iran and the six powers to decide to extend the deadline. But Kerry on Thursday insisted this was not on the table.

“We are not discussing an extension. We are negotiating to have an agreement. It’s that simple,” Kerry said in Paris before he went to Vienna.

Hammond had said on Wednesday that he was “not optimistic” the deadline could be met, suggesting that the best hope was for another extension — and provided there was “some significant movement”.

Russia’s main negotiator in the talks, Sergei Ryabkov, said Thursday that the talks were being held in a “tense atmosphere” and agreeing the mammoth accord would be “very difficult without a new spirit”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow Friday that “all the elements are already on the table” for a deal and called on negotiators to “show political will”.

Iran’s speaker of parliament Ali Larijani meanwhile told Iranian media on Thursday: “We are constantly cooperating (but the other side) is raising the tone.”

He added: “We hope that the other side will behave in a rational manner… and won’t take the wrong path.”

– Complex deal –

Some areas appear provisionally settled in what would be a highly complex deal that would run for many years, even decades.

But two key issues remain: enrichment — a process that renders uranium suitable for peaceful uses but also, at high purities, for a weapon; and the pace of the lifting of sanctions.

Diplomats say Iran wants all sanctions lifted at once. The six world powers want however to stagger any suspension to be sure that Iran does not renege on its commitments.

Iran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges — in order, it says, to make fuel for a fleet of future reactors — while the West wants them dramatically reduced.

Kelsey Davenport, an expert at the Arms Control Association, said it was a “positive sign” that Zarif might be returning to Iran.

“I think Zarif is going back to bring the results of his meeting with Kerry, which could have opened up the door for movement on the remaining issues, and to receive instructions about the parameters that he has to negotiate with,” she told AFP.

“I think the fact that he is going shows that they are close, serious and intent on reaching an agreement by November 24,” Davenport told AFP.

Tags : deadline, before, deal, strike, scramble, West, iran

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