Breathtaking Moments

Breathtaking MomentsBreathtaking Moments

A senior negotiator said talks between Iran and the major powers on a final nuclear agreement are at "breathtaking moments".

"I cannot promise whether the remaining issues can be resolved tonight or tomorrow night. Some issues still remain unresolved and, until they are solved, we cannot say an agreement has been reached," Tasnim News Agency quoted Abbas Araqchi as telling reporters on Monday in Vienna.

The talks are at their "final breathtaking moments (but) certain issues still remain," he added.

Diplomats close to the talks said there were contingency plans for an announcement ceremony on Monday if the negotiators sealed the comprehensive deal, which would end sanctions against Iran in exchange for temporary constraints on its nuclear program.

The negotiators had given themselves until Monday to reach a deal. If they failed to get one by midnight, they would need to extend the terms of an interim nuclear deal that has already been extended three times in two weeks.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by Fars news agency as saying, “There shouldn’t be any extension, but we can continue the talks as long as necessary.”

Grim-faced foreign ministers from the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) declined to answer questions about another possible extension as they gathered for a group meeting.

“No one is thinking of another extension,” a source close to the negotiating team was quoted by the AP as saying on Monday. “Everyone is working hard to get to yes today, but political will (is) still required.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry has cautioned that “major issues” remain to be resolved, and comments from both senior Republican and Democratic senators on Sunday suggested that any final deal would also face tough scrutiny in the US Congress, Reuters reported.

  Finishing Touches

“The parts of the deal are there,” said a senior official from one of the six countries. “We still need to put the finishing touches together. All sides have to decide now. It’s time to say yes.”

In Brussels, French President Francois Hollande said the sides are near agreement but “a gap” remains.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “The foreign ministers are gathered to bring negotiations to a conclusion. We believe there could not be further delay.”

Among the biggest sticking points in the past week has been Iran’s insistence that a United Nations Security Council arms embargo and ban on its ballistic missile program dating from 2006 be lifted immediately if the deal is reached. Other problematic issues are access for UN inspectors to sites in Iran, explanations from Tehran of its alleged past nuclear activity, and the overall speed of sanctions relief. Iran denies the allegation that its nuclear work may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability, saying it is for purely civilian purposes.