Iran, US Make Final Push as Nuclear Deal Deadline Looms 

The countries must accept a “general” outline before talks regarding a more comprehensive agreement begin.

2 min read

<!--StartFragment-->U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pose for a photograph before resuming talks over Iran’s nuclear programme in Lausanne, Switzerland (Photo: Reuters)<!--EndFragment-->

The foreign ministers of Iran and six world powers met on Monday in a final push for a preliminary accord less than two days before their deadline to outline a deal to end Tehran’s nuclear stand-off with the West.

Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have been holding marathon negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne to break an impasse in nuclear negotiations, but officials cautioned that attempts to reach a framework accord could yet fall apart.

In addition to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif , British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Germany‘s Frank-Walter Steinmier, Russia‘s Sergei Lavrov and China‘s Wang Yi gathered at a 19th-century hotel overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland, to try to end the deadlock in the talks.

The six powers want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran‘s most sensitive nuclear work. Tehran, which denies it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, demands in exchange for limits on its atomic activities,  a swift end to international sanctions that are crippling its economy.

While some issues being discussed in the negotiations have been resolved, there are several points on which the two sides have been yet unable to reach agreement. Both Iran and the six world powers have floated compromise proposals in an attempt to make an accord possible.

One sticking point concerns Iran‘s demand to continue with research into newer generations of advanced centrifuges that can purify uranium faster and in greater quantities than the ones it currently operates; these could be used in nuclear power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons.

Another question involves the speed of removing United Nations sanctions on Iran.

Even if Iran and the six powers reach an agreement by their end-March deadline, officials close to the talks caution that the agreement could still collapse when the two sides attempt to agree on all the technical details for a comprehensive accord.

As a Western official told Reuters, “Everything could still fall apart” before Tuesday’s self-imposed deadline for a framework agreement.

The U.S. official said negotiators were working towards something that would be called an “understanding” rather than a formal agreement. That would hopefully be finalized by June 30.

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