Foreign ministers from Iran, major powers meet on eve of deal deadline

Mohammad Javad Zarif
Foreign ministers from six major powers began Monday a meeting with their Iranian counterpart, on the eve of a deadline in Vienna to agree a historic nuclear deal.

Mohammad Javad Zarif and his counterparts from the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany are seeking to nail down an accord curbing Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons, saying its activities are purely for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity and treating cancer patients.

The deal, aimed at ending a 13-year-old standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme, would build on a framework accord reached in April in Switzerland.

Under that framework, Iran will reduce by more than two-thirds its uranium centrifuges, which can make nuclear fuel but also form the core of a nuclear bomb, and also reduce its uranium stockpiles and alter its Arak reactor.

Tough issues in finalising the accord include working out the pace and timing of sanctions relief, Iran’s future capacities to develop nuclear equipment and enhanced UN access, including potential access to military bases in Iran.

Officials from both sides warned however that success was far from guaranteed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the talks were “not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues”.

On Monday, an Iranian official said that “tough issues” remained to be resolved.

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