Iran's president said on Monday that Tehran and world powers may still be able to reach a final deal on the country's controversial nuclear program before the November 24 deadline.
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The remarks by moderate President Hassan Rohani came as Iran and the six nation group — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — are to begin another round of talks in Vienna on Tuesday, in the countdown to the November deadline for a final, comprehensive deal.
The deal is supposed to put in place measures that would prevent Iran from making an atomic weapon in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Failure to conclude an agreement could mean that the whole negotiating process, years in the making, falls apart.
"We think a final settlement of the issues is possible within the remaining 40 days," Rohani said.
Iran has the "political will" to reach a final deal, he added, though significant differences on details remain that require negotiations. His speech was broadcast live on Iranian state television late Monday.
Iran denies it wants nuclear weapons, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as power generation.
Rohani's remarks on the eve of the Vienna talks were likely meant to inject fresh optimism into the negotiations but his assessment has not been substantiated with developments on the ground. The remarks also contrasted those of senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, who only on Friday predicted the talks could be extended.
The negotiations were already extended once earlier this year. The talks now reportedly remain stuck over the size and output of Iran's uranium enrichment program, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons.
Rohani said there is no dispute that Iran should be allowed to maintain a uranium enrichment program or that all sanctions should be lifted under a final deal — but that discussions about modalities of all that still remain.
"Discussions are about how long and how," Rohani said without elaborating.
Rohani said major companies are waiting for a final nuclear accord that would lift sanctions and herald new business opportunities in the Mideast Shiite powerhouse nation, in order to "rush to Iran" with business deals.