• Austria's news in English

Iran meets six world powers over nukes

AFP/The Local · 18 Nov 2014, 09:00

Published: 18 Nov 2014 09:00 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Such an accord could not only consign to history one of the 21st century's most intractable geopolitical conundrums by easing fears once and for all that Iran might build a nuclear bomb.

It could also silence talk of war, put Iran and the West on the road to normalised relations after 35 years in the deep freeze and give US President Barack Obama a rare foreign policy success.

Hardliners in both the United States and Iran are putting their negotiators under pressure not to give too much away, however, and it is far from certain that a deal can be done.

"There's still a big gap. We may not be able to get there," Obama warned last Sunday.

A nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is possible if the other side refrains from "excessive demands," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday as he arrived for a final round of talks.

"A deal is still possible," Zarif was quoted by Iranian media as saying. 

"If, because of excessive demands by the other side, we don't get a result then the world will understand that the Islamic Republic sought a solution, a compromise and a constructive agreement and that it will not renounce its rights and the greatness of the nation."

Iran's arch foe Israel, widely assumed to have a formidable nuclear arsenal itself, is also watching closely, as are Sunni Gulf monarchies uneasy about any US rapprochement with Shiite Iran.

The United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1) want Iran to scale down its nuclear programme to make it virtually impossible for Iran to assemble an atomic bomb.

Iran, which says its nuclear aims are exclusively peaceful, wants painful sanctions lifted and a recognition of its "right" to a peaceful nuclear programme.

On November 24 last year, after moderate Hassan Rouhani became president, Iran and the P5+1 secured an interim agreement.

However, they missed a July 20 deadline to reach a comprehensive accord, giving themselves four more months, which expires this coming Monday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, due back in Vienna later this week, said at the time that the talks were "the best chance we've ever had to resolve this issue peacefully".

And now, says chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman, it is "time to finish the job".

Give and take

Some areas in what would be a highly complex agreement appear provisionally sewn up, like altering a reactor being built at Arak, a different use for the Fordo facility -- under a mountain to protect it from air attack -- and more inspections.

But the big problem remains enrichment, which renders uranium suitable for power generation and making nuclear medicines -- but also, at high purities, for a weapon.

Iran wants to ramp up massively the number of enrichment centrifuges in order, it says, to make reactor fuel. The West wants them slashed, saying Iran has no such need at present.

Other thorny issues are the duration of the accord and the pace at which sanctions are lifted, an area where Iranian expectations are "excessive", one Western diplomat said.

"They want everything, all at once and this is not realistic," the diplomat involved in the talks said.

Another extension?

Given the differences many analysts expect another extension.

"There is virtually no possibility that a complete deal will be concluded by November 24," former top US diplomat on non-proliferation Robert Einhorn, now an expert with the Brookings Institution, told AFP.

Story continues below…

"I think they'll agree to extend the interim arrangements for several more months."

And the alternative -- walking away -- would be "catastrophic," Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport said.

"Given the political capital that both sides have invested ... it would be foolish to walk away from the talks and throw away this historic opportunity," Davenport told AFP.

For now though, officials insist that they remain focused on the deadline.

"An extension is not and has not been a subject of conversation at this point," a senior US official said late Monday.

And another extension also carries risks, not least increasing the likelihood of Republicans pushing for fresh US sanctions, something which could prompt Iran to walk away.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (rosie.waites@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

Vienna Comic Con promises to be 'bigger and more galactic'
Cosplay star Yaya Han. Copyright: Yaya Han/Bryan Humphrey

Comic Con returns to the Austrian capital on November 19th-20th at the Messe Wien.

Three refugees arrested on drugs charges
Cannabis plants. Photo: J. Patrick Bedell/Wikimedia

A gang of three Afghani drug dealers has been busted in Vienna.

Hungarian woman crushed by snowcat piste machine
Snowcat machine. Photo: Melensdad/Wikimedia

A young Hungarian woman has died after being crushed by a snowcat piste machine on the Dobratsch mountain in Carinthia.

Austrian policeman sentenced over 'Heil Hitler' salute
Photo: Flickr

A policeman in Austria was sentenced on Thursday for shouting "Heil Hitler" at a driver during a traffic check at the Hungarian border in April.

Scary clown craze endangers crucial work of clown 'doctors'
Photo: Bojan Tavcar

Within the last couple weeks, disturbing events involving masked individuals has caught public attention in Austria.

Chimney sweep rescues lost mushroom picker
Photo: James Lindsey/Wikimedia

A 76-year-old Austrian man who went out mushroom picking almost froze to death after getting lost and spending the night in the forest.

Refugees sold into forced prostitution
File photo: UNHCR

Female refugees are being sold into forced prostitution in Austria, a police investigation into human trafficking has found.

Driverless bus takes a spin around Salzburg's old town
The Arma driverless shuttle bus. Photo: Navya

A driverless minibus has made a test journey in the city of Salzburg.

No jail time for asylum seeker who dumped baby in road
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A man who grabbed his own child and dumped her in the middle of a busy road has been given a nine-month suspended sentence.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available