Excessive demands by the six world powers negotiating with Iran in Vienna could impede negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday in Vienna, where he was participating in the last round of nuclear talks before negotiations end later this month.
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"We will strive to reach an agreement at this stage," said Zarif. "Naturally, if we are faced with excessive demands, this will be an obstacle to the progress in the negotiations and we won't accept them."
The comments came a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Iran that it was running out of time to negotiate an agreement over its nuclear program.
The sixth round of talks, which will continue until negotiations end July 20, was set to open Wednesday with a meeting between Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading the talks on behalf of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
There will then be a long succession of talks between the Iranian delegation and the negotiation teams of the world powers, in an effort to come up with a final draft agreement.
Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told reporters in Vienna that Iran would try to reach a "fair and logical" solution that would retain what he said were Iran's basic rights.
Over the next 18 days of intensive negotiations, Iran and the world powers will attempt to bridge the major gaps between them on the core issues surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
The primary conflict is over the future of uranium enrichment in Iran. The world powers are demanding that Iran significantly reduce the number of its centrifuges to the low thousands, while Tehran wants to keep tens of thousands of them in operation.
Iran and the world powers also differ on several other issues, including the future of the Arak heavy water reactor, the timetable for lifting sanctions, the removal of its enriched uranium stockpile and Iran's ballistic missile program.
In an attempt to pressure Iran, Kerry wrote an article for The Washington Post published Tuesday in which he said times was running out for Iran.
"Now Iran must choose," Kerry wrote. "[We] know that their public optimism about the potential outcome of these negotiations has not been matched, to date, by the positions they have articulated behind closed doors."
Kerry said the world powers had demonstrated flexibility and that the gaps that remain are not due to excessive demands on their part. He also said the powers would not agree to extending talks beyond the July 20 deadline "merely to drag out negotiations."
"Iran," he said, "must show a genuine willingness to respond to the international community’s legitimate concerns in the time that remains."