Nuclear Deal Looms in Lausanne as Iran Rules Out Sending Enriched Uranium Abroadإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
A nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is "doable," Tehran's lead negotiator said in crunch talks in Switzerland on Sunday, with "two or three" issues still to be resolved.
Abbas Araqchi however ruled out sending Iran's nuclear stocks abroad, a key demand of world powers, while insisting that all U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions must be lifted.
"Getting to an accord is doable. Solutions have been found for numerous questions. We are still working on two or three issues... The talks are in their final phase and are very difficult," Abbas told reporters in Lausanne.
"We are optimistic, the chances of getting a deal are there. But this requires the other side taking the necessary decisions and demonstrating their political will," he said.
But he added: "The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program and we do not intend sending them abroad.... There is no question of sending the stocks abroad."
Sending abroad Iran's stockpiles of low-enriched uranium, currently enough for several nuclear weapons if further processed, would make any push by Iran to get the nuclear weapons much more difficult.
This, combined with slashing the number of uranium enrichment centrifuge machines, would extend the so-called "breakout" time needed by Iran to assemble enough fissile material for a bomb.
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons, and Araqchi reiterated Sunday, two days before a deadline to agree the contours of a deal, that Tehran wanted sanctions lifted under any accord "under a precise program."
"All the sanctions have to be lifted -- those of the EU, the United States and the U.N. Security Council. There are six (U.N. Security Council) resolutions that have to be annulled," Araqchi said.
The powers are prepared to suspend sanctions, not terminate them, and over time to ensure Iran does not violate the possible deal. Doing so with the U.N. sanctions, however, will be tricky, according to experts.
Earlier on Sunday, Western diplomats said Iran and world powers had reached tentative agreement on parts of a deal sharply curtailing Tehran's nuclear program, while cautioning that the deal is by no means done.
As negotiators raced against the clock in a rainy Switzerland, in Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a blistering attack on the "dangerous" accord that may be emerging.
One Western diplomat said Iran had "more or less" agreed to slash the number of its centrifuge machines by more than two-thirds and to ship abroad most of its stockpile of nuclear material.
A senior Iranian negotiator denied any such thing, saying any such claims were aimed at "disturbing" the talks.
"No deal has been reached, and the remaining issues have to be resolved," the Iranian official said.
But at the same time Iranian officials have expressed guarded optimism that after 18 months of tortuous negotiations and two missed deadlines, a breakthrough might be in sight for a deal ending 12 years of tensions.
"If we manage to resolve all the remaining issues today or in the next two to three days, then we can begin to draw up a text. But for the moment we are still in discussions," a source close to the Iranian delegation said Sunday.
In Lausanne, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry canceled plans to leave for an event in Boston on Monday in order to keep negotiating, the State Department said.
"It's going all right. We're working," Kerry said Sunday during a break from talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a luxury hotel in the Swiss town.
His French and German counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also scrapped plans to go to Kazakhstan, diplomats said. Steinmeier said Saturday talks were in the "endgame."
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived on Sunday morning. Russian and British top diplomats Sergei Lavrov and Philip Hammond were expected later, completing the line-up of foreign ministers.
- Aim of the game -
The aim is to agree broad outlines for an accord by Tuesday's midnight deadline, and then flesh out a series of complex annexes containing all the technical details by June 30.
The mooted deal would see Iran scale down its nuclear program and allow unprecedented inspections of its remaining activities.
The hope is to prolong the theoretical "breakout" time that Iran would need to produce enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb to at least a year from the current estimate of several months.
This would require a combination of slashing the number of centrifuges, converting existing nuclear plants such as the underground Fordo facility, exporting its stocks of enriched uranium and limiting the development of newer, faster equipment.
The latter is thought to be a particularly thorny issue, as is the issue of sanctions.
Iran is insisting that in exchange global powers must lift sanctions that have choked its economy by strangling its oil exports and banks.
The issue of U.N. sanctions is proving particularly thorny, diplomats said, with global powers insisting the sanctions should be eased only gradually to ensure that they can be "snapped" back into place if Iran violates the deal.
"Ultimately, it's time for the Iranians to send a clear signal to the international community about whether or not they're willing to make the serious commitments required," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told ABC television Sunday.
- 'Dangerous' -
But for Israel and U.S. President Barack Obama's Republican opponents, the agreement will not go far enough to stop Iran one day getting the bomb.
Kerry is under pressure to return from Lausanne with something concrete to head off a push by Republican lawmakers to introduce yet more sanctions, potentially torpedoing the whole negotiating process.
"The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne confirms our concerns and even worse," Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast on public radio.
He said the "Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis" was "dangerous for all of humanity" and that combined with Tehran's regional influence, a nuclear deal could allow Iran to "conquer" the Middle East.
"I just don't understand why we would sign an agreement with a group of people who in my opinion have no intention of keeping their word," House Speaker John Boehner, due to travel to Israel this week, told CNN.
Russia has also warned that U.S.-supported airstrikes by Iran's foe Saudi Arabia on Iran-backed rebels in Yemen -- hence Netanyahu's comment -- were "having an impact" on the negotiations.