Iran nu­clear talks pushed back as Tehran ral­lies for its key de­mands

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SIMON STURDEE AND JO BID­DLE

Roller­coaster talks aimed at stop­ping Iran get­ting a nu­clear bomb went into ex­tra time Wed­nes­day with Tehran in­sist­ing it won’t be rushed into a bad deal that falls short of meet­ing its key de­mands.

Speak­ing af­ter Iran and ma­jor pow­ers missed a mid­night dead­line to agree the out­lines of a po­ten­tially his­toric ac­cord at talks that stretched into the small hours, Iran’s chief ne­go­tia­tor said the Ira­ni­ans “won’t let time bind us in the talks.”

The U.S., Rus­sia, China, United King­dom, France and Ger­many want Iran to scale down its nu­clear pro­gram in or­der to ex­tend the “break­out” time needed for Iran to as­sem­ble a bomb’s worth of nu­clear ma­te­rial.

Iran de­nies want­ing the bomb and its ne­go­tia­tors are un­der strict or­ders from supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei to refuse any cur­tail­ing of its pro­gramme with­out re­lief from painful sanc­tions.

Araghchi said Wed­nes­day a deal was im­pos­si­ble with­out a “frame­work for the re­moval of all sanc­tions, but global pow­ers want any sanc­tions re­lief to be phased and eas­ily re­versible if Iran vi­o­lates the deal.

The stakes are high, with fears that fail­ure may set the United States and Is­rael on a road to mil­i­tary ac­tion to thwart Iran’s nu­clear drive.

The White House warned again Tues­day that the mil­i­tary op­tion to de­prive the Is­lamic repub­lic of nu­clear arms re­mained “on the ta­ble.

Con­tra­dic­tory Sig­nals

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov and his Ira­nian coun­ter­part Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif had raised hopes in the early hours of Wed­nes­day morn­ing that the frame­work deal might be in sight.

But West­ern coun­tries poured cold wa­ter on such ex­pec­ta­tions, with a se­nior U.S. State Depart­ment of­fi­cial say­ing tersely: “All is­sues have not been agreed.”

“Op­ti­mistic” UK For­eign Min­is­ter Philip Ham­mond said Wed­nes­day a “broad frame­work of un­der­stand­ing” had been reached, but he also said there were “some key is­sues that have to be worked through. Com­ing away f rom Lau­sanne with a deal meant “the Ira­ni­ans be­ing will­ing to meet us where there are still is­sues to deal with,” Ham­mond told UK me­dia.

Hawk­ish French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius, who along with Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi have now left the talks, said progress so far was “not enough. Kerry, who on Wed­nes­day went into his first bi­lat­eral meet­ing with Zarif in sev­eral days, overnight briefed U. S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and his na­tional se­cu­rity team on the ne­go­ti­a­tions by se­cure video con­fer­ence.

Iran’s ne­go­tia­tors are also un­der pres­sure from do­mes­tic hard­lin­ers not to give too much away while also de­liv­er­ing on Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani’s prom­ise to win the lift­ing of sanc­tions.

Ne­tanyahu, in his fourth broad­side in as many days, warned Wed­nes­day against a bad deal that would en­dan­ger Is­rael, and the Mid­dle East.

Some ar­eas of the mooted deal, in­clud­ing the fu­ture size of Iran’s ura­nium en­rich­ment ca­pac­ity, ap­pear to have been ten­ta­tively sewn up.

But the two sides still ap­pear to be dis­cussing other ar­eas, in­clud­ing sanc­tions re­lief, what to do with Iran’s stock­piles of nu­clear ma­te­rial, and how long the deal should last.

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