By Mohammad Amin Mokarrami, Tehran Times
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that there is still enough time for Iran and the major powers to strike a comprehensive nuclear deal before the July 20 deadline.
"We believe that we have enough time. This meeting will end just about a month before our first deadline, so we still have time. We are not in a hurry. We believe if there is political will, we can finish it on time, but we are going to see and try" Zarif told the Tehran Times and Press TV upon arrival in Vienna on Monday to lead a new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany,) which started on the same day.
He also said, "Our discussions here are exclusively on the nuclear issue, so we continue to discuss the nuclear issue... I believe if there is the necessary readiness, political will, and good faith in order to address serious issues and take serious decisions, then we are prepared to move forward.
"Iran has shown its readiness to reach an agreement but we are not going to accept people imposing an agreement on us nor I think it is in the interest of anybody to impose an agreement - that will not be called an agreement. We are prepared to work seriously round-the-clock in order to start the process of the endgame - writing what we are supposed to do."
After having a working lunch with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the talks on behalf of the six major powers, at the building of the Iranian mission to the United Nations in Vienna, Zarif told reporters that Iran and the members of the 5+1 group will hold a plenary meeting and a number of bilateral and technical meetings on Tuesday in order to see whether the ground is prepared to start work on drafting the text of the final nuclear deal.
Zarif, Ashton, and the U.S. delegation also held a trilateral meeting on Monday. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns reportedly led the U.S. delegation at the meeting.
In the previous round of political-level talks in Vienna in May, Iran and the major powers made little progress in building on the landmark interim nuclear deal they clinched last November in Geneva and did not reach the point to start drafting a final deal.
Under the Geneva deal, Iran agreed not to expand its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into force on January 20. Iran and the major powers have set a July 20 deadline to clinch a long-term nuclear deal to resolve the decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. The deadline can be extended by another half year if both sides agree.
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