Deadlock Persists at Iran Nuclear Talks
by VOA News July 11, 2015
The United States and Iran struggled Saturday to break a deadlock that has prevented the major powers involved in reaching a historic deal that would bring sanctions relief for Tehran in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met earlier Saturday in Vienna with European Union foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini as well as other foreign ministers.
After the meeting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement sent to Reuters, 'Now that everything is on the table, the moment has come to decide.'
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier also attended.
The Russian and Chinese foreign ministers -- Sergei Lavrov and Wang Yi, respectively -- have said they will return to Vienna if a deal appears close.
An interim nuclear agreement has been extended through Monday, to provide negotiators in Vienna more time for talks on a comprehensive deal, a senior State Department official said Friday.
'To allow for the additional time to negotiate, we are taking the necessary technical steps for the measures of the Joint Plan of Action to remain in place through July 13,' the official said.
The interim agreement was reached in April and an original June 30th deadline for a final deal has already passed.
Having missed a Friday morning U.S. congressional deadline, U.S. and European Union officials said they were extending sanctions relief for Iran under an interim deal through Monday to provide more time for talks on a final deal.
Any agreement now faces a 60-day review by the Republican-led Congress, rather than 30, extra time U.S. President Barack Obama's administration worries could derail it.
The sides remain divided over issues that include a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, which Western powers want to keep in place; access for inspectors to military sites in Iran, and access to Iran's nuclear scientists to determine whether Tehran conducted research in the past on how to potentially weaponize its nuclear stockpiles.
Friday, Kerry said progress had been made in negotiations.
'We still have a couple of very difficult issues, and we'll be sitting down to discuss those in the very near term,' Kerry said to reporters as he met with his team in Vienna. 'But I think we have resolved some of the things that were outstanding and we've made some progress.'
British Foreign Secretary Hammond said Friday, 'We are making progress, it's painfully slow.'
Hammond also echoed Kerry's assessment of the talks, adding, 'There are still some issues that have to be resolved.'
Zarif has been holding intense meetings for two weeks with Kerry, trying to hammer out a deal limiting Iran's nuclear program in return for withdrawing economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
But the negotiations have become bogged down, with final deadlines extended three times in the past 10 days.
Meanwhile, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a meeting of students in Tehran Saturday the U.S. is the 'true embodiment of global arrogance,' according to remarks posted on his website.
Khamenei was asked by a student what would happen to the 'fight against global arrogance' after the completion of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers.
Khamenei's website quoted him as saying: 'Fighting global arrogance is the core of our revolution and we cannot put it on hold. Get ready to continue your fight against the global arrogance. ... The U.S. is the true embodiment of the global arrogance.'
The term arrogants, or arrogant powers, is used in Iran to refer to the United States and its Western and Israeli allies.
Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.
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