US secretary of state John Kerry said yesterday major differences persist between Iran and six world powers negotiating on Tehran’s nuclear programme, remarks echoed by Tehran, with a July 20 deadline for a deal approaching.
The US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China want Iran to reduce its nuclear fuel-making capacity to deny it any means of quickly producing atom bombs.
In exchange, international sanctions that have crippled the large OPEC member’s oil-dependent economy would gradually be lifted.
Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful energy purposes only and wants the sanctions removed swiftly.
“Obviously we have some very significant gaps still, so we need to see if we can make some progress,” Kerry said ahead of meetings with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other foreign ministers in Vienna.
Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted by Iran’s al-Alam television as saying “disputes over all major and important issues still remain.
“We have not been able to narrow the gaps on major issues and it is not clear whether we can do it”.
Kerry arrived in Vienna after clinching a deal in Kabul with Afghanistan’s presidential candidates to end the election crisis. “It is vital to make certain that Iran is not going to develop a nuclear weapon and that their programme is peaceful and that’s what we’re here to try and achieve and I hope we can make some progress,” he said.
Araqchi said that he was “not pessimistic but also not very optimistic” about prospects for an agreement ahead of the deadline. He said if the talks collapsed, Iran would resume higher- level enrichment that it suspended on January 20 when a preliminary accord the sides struck took effect.
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