Iran Plays Down Chances of Final Nuclear Deal
Iran's foreign minister on Sunday played down the chances of achieving a final deal with the West over his country’s nuclear program, saying Iran does not expect to cement a final deal in the coming round of nuclear talks with world powers.
According to The Associated Press (AP), Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comments while speaking to reporters after meeting his Belorussian visiting counterpart, Vladimir Makei.
"We don't expect to reach a deal in this round of talks. Nor was a deal on the agenda for this round of talks. We have agreed to discuss a number of issues in this round," Zarif said.
He added that Tehran and world powers will discuss "dimensions" of Iran's nuclear activities like uranium enrichment, a heavy water reactor as well as sanctions in the Tuesday and Wednesday talks in Vienna.
"We will also discuss international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology," Zarif said, according to AP.
Under a six-month interim deal which was reached in November and went into effect in January, Iran agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment program in return for sanctions relief worth some $6-7 billion, including the transfer of some $4.2 billion in frozen overseas funds.
That interim agreement is meant to lead to a final accord that minimizes any potential Iranian nuclear weapons threat in return for a full lifting of sanctions.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran has to take some "tough decisions" in order to achieve a final deal.
"We believe we're heading in the right direction. I can't tell you where it's going to finally land, we don't know," Kerry told members of the Senate appropriations committee.
"There's some very tough decisions the Iranians are going to have to make -- very tough -- in order to meet the international community's standard for certainty as to the peacefulness of this program," he added.
The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, admitted last week that there is no guarantee for the achievement of a final nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers.
Ashton described the ongoing nuclear negotiations as “difficult” and “challenging,” and noted, “There is no guarantee we’ll succeed.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, reported AP, 200 Iranian lawmakers issued a statement urging Tehran's negotiators not to withdraw from the "rights of the Iranian nation." Iran says it has the right under the UN's Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium.
Zarif has said in the past that his country is willing to address international concerns about its atomic activities but will keep its nuclear program "intact" and not close it down.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently declared that his country will not dismantle its nuclear facilities.
Rouhani said nuclear weapons had no place in Iran’s defense strategy but also made clear that Tehran was determined to maintain a uranium enrichment program for peaceful purposes.