“Iranian official says ‘few last’ but ‘tough’ issues left to resolve, as reports emerge of Rouhani-Putin meet”
Three months ago there were a number of unresolved issues, the official said, asking not to be identified. But now “there are only a few items left which need to be tackled by the ministers. That is why the ministers are here,” he said, speaking as top diplomats began crunch talks in Vienna chasing a deal.
A June 30 deadline passed without a deal, but officials gave themselves another week to ink a pact that would put nuclear weapons beyond Iran’s immediate reach, in return for easing crippling economic sanctions.
The Mehr News Agency said Monday that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was planning to head to Moscow on Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons, saying its activities are purely for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity and treating cancer patients.
The deal, capping almost two years of roller coaster talks following Rouhani’s 2013 election, would build on a framework accord reached in April in Switzerland.
Under that framework, Iran will reduce by more than two-thirds its uranium centrifuges, which can make nuclear fuel but also the core of a nuclear bomb, reduce its uranium stockpiles and alter its Arak reactor.
Tough issues in finalizing the accord include working out the pace and timing of sanctions relief, Iran‘s future capacities to develop nuclear equipment and enhanced UN access, including potentially to military bases in Iran.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been meeting on and off for the past 10 days with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, said “it is now time” to seal the deal.
“Over the past few days we have in fact made genuine progress, but I want to be absolutely clear with everybody we are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues,” Kerry said.
“While I completely agree… that we have never been closer, at this point this negotiation could go either way,” he said.