Sun, May 18, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Iranian nuclear negotiations prove to be tough going

AFP, VIENNA

Iran and world powers on Friday warned they are a long way from reaching a comprehensive and potentially historic nuclear deal by a July 20 deadline following tough talks in Vienna.

Such an accord would see Iran roll back its nuclear program to render it virtually impossible for Tehran to make an atomic bomb, in exchange for a lifting of all sanctions.

Failure could have calamitous consequences, sparking possible conflict — neither Israel nor Washington rules out military action — and creating a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

In this fourth round of talks, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany aimed to start drafting a deal before a November interim accord expires on July 20.

However, it was clear after three days of intense negotiations in a Vienna hotel that nothing had been put to paper yet.

“The gaps were too large to begin drafting the text of an accord,” Iranian chief negotiator Abbas Araqchi told state television.

In this round, “we made no tangible progress,” he said, adding that the differences were “too huge.”

A source close to the Iranian delegation was quoted by the IRNA news agency as saying that “the West has to abandon its excessive demands.”

Western diplomats were similarly downbeat, saying that Iran needed to be more prepared to budge on its positions.

“Huge gaps remain, there is really more realism needed on the other side,” one Western diplomat said. “We had expected a little more flexibility.”

“Iran still has to make some hard choices. We are concerned that progress is not being made, and that time is short,” a senior US official said. “We believe there needs to be some additional realism at this point.”

However, the official added that both sides had been well aware that this would not be an easy process, and that they remained committed to getting an agreement.

Unusually, no date was announced for the next round, although officials said it would be some time next month.

There was also no closing press statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif.

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