DUBAI: Iran said on Wednesday nuclear talks with six world powers would resume in early September, according to state television, after both sides agreed to continue talking for four more months to try to reach a final agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The preliminary accord had been due to expire on Sunday but was extended with some adjustments, after the two sides failed during negotiations in Vienna to meet a self-imposed July 20 deadline for a long-term deal to end the decade-old nuclear standoff.
“The extension of talks shows this is a positive atmosphere,” Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said during a weekly press conference. She said the biggest difference between both was in enrichment capacity.
Iran says it is only refining uranium to fuel nuclear power plants or research reactors, not to develop a nuclear weapons capability as the West suspects. The six powers - the United States, France, China, Russia, Germany and Britain - want Iran to reduce its uranium enrichment programme significantly to make sure it cannot produce nuclear bombs.
Some other issues that have yet to be agreed upon include the heavy water Arak reactor, sanctions relief and the Fordow enrichment site, said Afkham. Iran wants sanctions on the oil-dependent economy to be lifted as soon as possible. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week that talks would resume in September but gave no further details.
Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes, and that its enriched uranium was meant as fuel for its nuclear power plant in Bushehr and for others to come. The IAEA report came after Iran and the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — agreed to give themselves until November 24 to reach a lasting nuclear agreement.
The initial deadline had been July 20, but after a sixth round of marathon talks in Vienna, lead negotiator and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said early Saturday that “significant gaps on some core issues” remained, although there had been “tangible progress”. The six powers want Iran to dramatically reduce its nuclear programme for a lengthy period of time and agree to more intrusive UN inspections. This would expand the time needed for Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, while giving the world ample warning of any such “breakout” push.
A senior Western diplomat said Saturday that the main text “is there, all aspects are addressed, we don’t expect any surprise,” adding that “the gaps are not unbridgeable.” “But we need to solve the core issues,” the diplomat added. The head of Iran’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, Aladin Borujerdi, on Monday welcomed the new deadline, noting that: “The message of this extension... is that the negotiating sides have the will to reach a comprehensive agreement.”
Talks were due to resume in the coming weeks, but at which level, where and when had yet to be decided, diplomats said in Vienna. The European Union meanwhile announced on Monday that it would extend by four months the suspension of a series of sanctions against Iran, following the decision to continue the negotiations. Brussels had already suspended these sanctions while Iran was negotiating a nuclear deal with the world powers. The suspension means Tehran can continue to export crude oil.
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