Iran and World Powers May Reach Nuclear Deal Within Hours, Diplomats Say

Reported draft of nuclear deal stipulates access for UN inspectors to suspected Iranian sites based on consultations with Tehran.

Barak Ravid
Reuters
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World Powers meet for Iran nuclear talks which are being held in Vienna, Austria, 2015.
World Powers meet for Iran nuclear talks which are being held in Vienna, Austria, 2015.Credit: AFP
Barak Ravid
Reuters

Iran and major powers seeking to hammer out a nuclear agreement in Vienna were continuing their negotiations late Monday and may announce a deal within hours, diplomats said, as initial reports of a draft of the deal began to surface.

Representatives of the six major powers began a brief meeting in the early hours of Tuesday, a U.S. official told Reuters. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Iran did not take part in the meeting.

A report in Iran said its foreign minister and EU's foreign policy chief will read a joint statement in a few hours at the end of marathon talks between the sides.

"In a few hours (Mohammad Javad) Zarif and (Federica) Mogherini will read a joint statement at the UN headquarter in the presence of foreign ministers of six powers," ISNA reported.

A Western official said earlier that the two sides were scheduled to have a photo opportunity of all foreign ministers at the talks at midnight GMT (3 A.M. Israel time) on Tuesday, possibly followed by a news conference.

Meanwhile, Reuters published what it said was parts of a draft of the deal, which it said calls for UN inspectors to have access to all suspect Iranian sites, including military, based on consultations between the powers and Tehran, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

The source also said that if the deal is agreed, a UN Security Council resolution on it would ideally be adopted this month and the steps to be taken by both sides - including Iranian limitations on its nuclear program and relief from sanctions on Iran - implemented in the first half of 2016.

The information from the source was preliminary and subject to change as it was based on a draft of the nuclear deal that was not the final version and that could be amended before final approval

Both Iran and the United States said earlier Monday evening that an announcement over a deal over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program would not be released by the deadline set for midnight.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed this to reporters in his daily briefing, adding that the interim agreement would be extended and that the talks would continue as long as necessary. Genuine progress has been made, he said, but added that sticking points remain.

Zarif was the first official to reveal the extension, in response to a question from reporters outside of the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna, where the talks were taking place.

It is not clear what is delaying the nuclear agreement, but Iranian President Hassan Rohani wrote a tweet which was quickly deleted after it was posted, which indicates that the leadership in Tehran had already been prepared for the two sides to announce a deal on Monday.

"#IranDeal is the victory of diplomacy and mutual respect over the outdated paradigm of exclusion & coercion. And this is a good beginning," Rohani wrote in the tweet.

A few minutes after Rohani's post was deleted, Zarif wrote on his own Twitter account a similar message, but one which made clear that a deal had not yet been reached.

"If #IranDeal reached, triumph of diplomacy means we all will have won when we all could have lost. Plain and simple; no spin needed," Zarif wrote in his post.

Shortly after that, Rohani posted a new message to his account, amending it to more or less match Zarif's indication that a deal has not yet been reached by adding the world "If."

"If #IranDeal, victory of diplomacy and mutual respect over outdated paradigm of exclusion and coercion. And this will be good beginning," Rohani wrote.

Foreign ministers from the six world powers – the U.S., Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain – earlier met in the Austrian capital to discuss the final issues that remain unresolved with regard to the unfolding deal.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had said earlier Monday there would be a statement on the talks in the afternoon, indicating that a deal was looming. Iranian President Hassan Rohani had reportedly been set to address his nation at 5:30 P.M. GMT (8:30 P.M. in Israel), but his office later said that the Iranian leader would only address the nation after the talks have concluded.

Speaking to reporters outside the Palais Coburg Hotel, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday morning that conditions are ripe for a deal, and that additional delays should be avoided.

The head of the Iranian delegation, Abbas Araghchi, said Monday morning that there were still obstacles in the talks. He emphasized that the talks have reached a decisive point, though unresolved issues still remain.

"Some issues still remain unresolved and until they are solved, we cannot say an agreement has been reached," he said, adding that he is hopeful but that there is no guarantee that the sides will manage to announce a deal on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, warned that the concession being offered by world powers meant that they were willing to accept a nuclear deal at any price.

"If the concessions continue even after 'death to America' chants in Tehran, then it is clear that some are willing to make a deal at any price," Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting on Monday.

"Were it not for our efforts over the years, Iran would have accumulated nuclear weapons already. Our commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon still stands today."

A map of Iran's nuclear facilities. Infographic by Haaretz

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