Nuclear talks to miss deadline, says Iran

Disputes remain over how IAEA will apply powerful inspections tool

VIENNA - Talks between Iran and the major powers on finalising a historic nuclear deal will go beyond tomorrow's deadline, a spokesman for the Iranian delegation in Vienna said yesterday.

"The delegations will remain beyond July 1," the spokesman said, adding that there was still lots of work to do "to continue the negotiations and reach a good overall deal".

"At the same time, there is no desire or discussion yet on a long-term extension," he said.

While there had been talk that the deadline might be missed by a few days, no officials had confirmed it until now.

The talks between Iran and the P5+1 - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - are aimed at finalising a framework deal struck in April.

According to that agreement, Iran will sharply reduce its nuclear programme in scale and submit to tighter United Nations inspections.

In return, Iran, which says its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes, will see painful sanctions lifted.

Negotiators yesterday struggled to define the scope of international monitoring of Iran's nuclear facilities as foreign ministers converged for the second day of talks in Vienna.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday before Mr Zarif returned to Teheran for consultations.

Mr Zarif was expected to fly back to Vienna today.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini yesterday said that a last-minute deal between Iran and the world powers on Teheran's nuclear programme was still possible.

"If all negotiating parties have strong political will in these last moments, we can make it," she said in a Twitter tweet.

Disputes over how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will apply its most powerful inspections tool, the so-called Additional Protocol, have emerged as a major hurdle.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni last week ruled out any unconventional inspections on Iranian territory.

In the US, some Congress members want unfettered access similar to what monitors got in Iraq following the first Gulf War.

Iran's parliamentary leader Ali Larijani yesterday told an audience in Teheran: "We welcome an agreement because it is to everyone's advantage, but don't think that if you want to put more pressure that it will be tolerated."

While Iran has become the most-inspected country in the world, receiving 1,692-person days of IAEA inspections last year, its refusal to implement the Additional Protocol has meant the agency cannot conclude that all of the Islamic Republic's activities are for peaceful purposes.

Contention over the scope of inspections points to the distrust built up between Iran and the Vienna-based agency over the course of a 12-year investigation.

Diplomats familiar with IAEA's Iran file have highlighted that any visits to sensitive Iranian facilities would be complementary rather than systematic.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Nuclear talks to miss deadline, says Iran'. Print Edition | Subscribe