Few Differences Remain

Few Differences Remain Few Differences Remain

A senior nuclear negotiator said gaps on a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers have been substantially narrowed and only few are left to be addressed.

"There are no more than two to three major remaining differences. Other (differences) are less important," Abbas Araqchi said.

"What matters is that the differences are becoming fewer and fewer and only a handful remain," he told state TV on Tuesday.

Araqchi said the main text of the accord is "nearly complete" and just "a few paragraphs" are left, IRNA reported.

As for the annexes of the deal, he said the annex pertaining to the nuclear program has been under serious discussion between Atomic Energy Organization of Iran director Ali Akbar Salehi, his US counterpart Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other involved parties.

"Good progress has been made and (the discussions) are nearing their final stages."

The deputy foreign minister said "95 to 96 percent" of the annex on sanctions has been completed, with two or three minor issues yet to be resolved.

"The annex dealing with peaceful nuclear cooperation with Iran is almost complete and the various areas of cooperation have been specified."

Among the sticking points, officials said, are Iranian demands for a UN arms embargo and ballistic missiles sanctions to be lifted, the timing of US and EU sanctions relief and future nuclear research and development, Reuters reported.

Araqchi called on some parties to negotiations to reconsider their approach on sanctions.

"The western side should be prepared to abandon sanctions under the deal," he said, adding, "(They) should change their approach to sanctions and stop clinging to them" because a deal cannot take place with a sanctions regime still remaining in place.

***Heated Exchange

Diplomats said a discussion on Monday night between Iran and international negotiating partners became testy over the issue of UN sanctions, which Iran wants scrapped as part of the deal.

"There was no slamming of doors but it was a very heated exchange of views," a senior western diplomat told reporters.

Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany) are in the last days of marathon talks over Tehran's nuclear program to finalize a settlement which would place temporary constraints on the program in return for the lifting of sanctions.

US officials are loath to ease the conventional arms embargo against Iran.

A senior US official said UN restrictions would remain on Iran's trade in arms and its access to missile technology, but left open the possibility that these might be less onerous than they are at present.

The negotiators had set Tuesday as a deadline to conclude the comprehensive agreement when it became clear last week that a June 30 deadline would not be met. But despite a push over the past few days they made clear again that they still needed more time.

They gave themselves at least until Friday, but a source from one of the powers said on Tuesday they had to wrap up in the next 48 hours.

"We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday outside the hotel where the talks are taking place.

The spokesperson for the US delegation, Marie Harf, said the terms of an interim deal struck in November 2013 in Geneva between Iran and the six would be extended through Friday to give negotiators a few more days to finish their work.

*** Deadline Not Sacrosanct

It is the fourth time the parties have extended the interim deal.

The latest extension to Friday left open the possibility an agreement would not arrive in time for a 4 a.m. GMT Friday (midnight EDT Thursday) deadline to allow an expedited, 30-day review of a deal by the US Congress.

If a deal is sent to Congress later, Congress will have up to 60 days to review it. US officials fear that could provide more time for any deal to unravel or for pressure groups to influence US lawmakers to oppose any pact.

Araqchi reiterated that the negotiating team does not feel pressed for time to accede to any deal.

"As far as the extension of talks is concerned, we are not bound by any deadline. No deadline is sacrosanct." he said, adding, "Our concern is achieving our desired deal and we are ready to stay in Vienna for as long as it takes to accomplish this."