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Iranian FM Says Nuclear Talks To Continue Over Weekend

Source: RFE/RL

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif
and head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi taking a bread from the negotiations on balcony of Hotel Palais Coburg in Vienna
(photo by Mostafa Ghotbi, Islamic Republic News Agency)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on July 10 nuclear negotiations between Iran and major powers were likely to continue during the weekend.

"Some progress has been made but we are not there yet ... I doubt it will happen today ... it seems that we are going to spend the weekend in Vienna," Zarif told reporters.

After blowing past a self-imposed deadline followed by two extensions, negotiators had given themselves until midnight July 10 to complete a deal.

A deadline for getting an accelerated review of the deal in the U.S. Congress passed overnight.

On July 9, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened to walk away unless Iran made "tough decisions" needed to clinch a deal.

The Iranians immediately fired back, accusing the United States and its European allies of engaging in "psychological warfare" and changing their positions at the last minute.

Kerry and other Western officials said Iran still hadn't made the difficult political decision to roll back its nuclear program.

Kerry said the United States will not be rushed into a deal by expiring deadlines, but at the same time its patience with Iran is wearing out and it won't continue negotiating indefinitely.

"This is not open-ended," Kerry told reporters outside the 19th-century Viennese palace hosting the negotiations. "We can't wait forever for the decision to be made. If the tough decisions don't get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this process."

European leaders agreed that all that remained to complete the deal was some difficult decisions in Tehran.

"The text is done. It's already there. It's a matter of yes or no," European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told CNN.

"We are very close, but if the important, historical decisions are not made in the next hours, we won't have an agreement."

Negotiators have given themselves until midnight July 10 to complete a deal. A deadline for getting an accelerated review of the deal in the U.S. Congress passed overnight.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hit back at Kerry's statement, with an aide saying U.S. leaders are waging "psychological warfare against Iran."

"It is up to Americans if they want to leave the talks. Iran is ready to continue the negotiations," said Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Khamenei.

But he said that "a deal can be reached only if our redlines are respected."

Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria
(photo by Mostafa Ghotbi, Islamic Republic News Agency)

'Excessive Demands'

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States and its allies of having "excessive demands" and said they had frequently changed their positions.

Long-standing differences persist over inspections of Iranian facilities and the Islamic republic's research and development of advanced nuclear technology.

A particular bone of contention is Iran's demand that a United Nations embargo on conventional arms sales to Iran be lifted along with economic sanctions imposed by the West, once Iran agrees to curb its nuclear activities.

The United States and European powers maintain they always intended to keep the arms embargo in place to keep a lid on Iran's many surrogate military ventures in the Middle East.

But Tehran says it expected all the UN sanctions to be lifted, not just the economic ones. Russia and China, which are among the six world powers negotiating in Vienna, are backing up Iran.

"We are in favor of lifting the [arms] embargo as soon as possible," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a summit of emerging economies in the Russian city of Ufa.

Any move to allow Iran to build up its conventional forces in exchange for curbs on its nuclear arms is likely to face stiff opposition in the U.S. Congress, where legislators are as concerned about Iran's hostilities toward Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East as they are about its potential acquisition of nuclear arms.

"The stakes are very, very high, we will not rush and we will not be rushed," Kerry said, insisting that the United States will hold out for the best possible deal.

The deal "has to be one that can withstand the test of time," he said. "It is not a test of a matter of days or weeks or months. It's a test for decades."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2015 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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