Iran nuclear deal close; impasse over weapons, missiles persists
VIENNA – Iran and six world powers were close to an historic nuclear agreement on Thursday that could resolve a more than 12-year dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but they remained deadlocked on the issue of Iranian arms and missile trade.
Over the past two weeks, Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have twice extended a deadline for completing a long-term deal under which Tehran would curb sensitive nuclear activities for more than a decade in exchange for sanctions relief.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi were meeting on Thursday morning.
Salehi told reporters, “Hopefully today is the last day.” Moniz added: “We’re going to resolve the last issues, if we can.”
The latest extension of the talks to Friday left open the possibility an agreement would not arrive in time to secure a 30-day review period by the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress.
If a deal is sent to Congress after July 9 – Thursday – the period grows to 60 days, increasing the chance that the deal could unravel.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have been meeting daily for two weeks to overcome the last remaining obstacles to a deal. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his British and German counterparts have also rejoined the negotiations.
The White House said President Barack Obama and his national security team held a video conference on Wednesday with Kerry, Moniz and the U.S. negotiating team in Vienna.
“The President reviewed the progress of negotiations to date, and provided guidance related to our ongoing efforts to achieve a good deal between the P5+1 and Iran that meets our requirements,” the White House said in a statement. – Reuters