The US, EU and Iran began a second day of talks in Oman yesterday to try to bridge what US President Barack Obama characterized as “big” differences on a final nuclear agreement, as the Islamic Republic touted tests of an autonomous aerial vehicle based on a US drone.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif met in the Omani capital, Muscat, a day after Obama told CBS News: “There’s still a big gap” between the two sides and cautioned that “we may not be able to get there” by the Nov. 24 deadline for a deal.
Yesterday’s talks were in preparation for formal negotiations resuming in Vienna on Tuesday next week between Iran and the group known as P5 + 1: Germany, Russia, China, France, the UK and the US.
Under a final agreement, Iran would have to submit to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for the gradual lifting of international sanctions. An interim agreement signed a year ago traded limited sanctions relief for limitations on Iran’s nuclear work.
Differences remain over the scope of the nation’s uranium enrichment program, how and when to lift economic sanctions, and how long Iran’s nuclear program must remain under international inspections and safeguards.
Iran says its nuclear program is for energy and medical purposes and rejects allegations that its nuclear work is a cover to build weapons.
In Tehran, Iran said had successfully tested its own version of a US-made drone based on one it captured in 2011.
State TV quoted Iranian Army General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the aerospace division of the elite Revolutionary Guard, as saying that the test had been carried out earlier yesterday.
“As we promised earlier this year, a test flight of the Iranian version of the RQ-170 was carried out and a video will be released soon,” he said.
Iran had displayed the drone earlier this year.
The nation said it managed to reverse-engineer the RQ-170 Sentinel, seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace from Afghanistan, and that it is capable of launching its own production line for the unmanned aircraft.
Iran says it has captured several US drones in recent years, including a Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone — a less sophisticated aircraft — after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf. Tehran says it is also copying the ScanEagle and plans to put its version into service.
Iran has accused the US of using drones to spy on the nation’s nuclear program.
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