Amid chest thumping, US and Iran extend talks on nuclear deal
US says it is ready to walk away from a bad nuclear deal and Iran warns it will take the old path if the other side breaches the deal.
Even as Iran and six world powers agreed to extend nuclear talks for a week past a June 30 deadline, the US and Iran issued warnings.
Marie Harf, senior adviser for strategic communications at the US State Department said Tuesday, "The P5+1 and Iran have decided to extend the measures under the Joint Plan of Action until July 7 to allow more time for negotiations to reach a long-term solution ... on the Iran nuclear issue," Reuters reported.
After both sides agreed on the extension, President Barack Obama said he is still willing to “walk away” from a nuclear deal with Iran if the deal does not block Tehran’s paths to building a nuclear weapon.
Despite the warnings, Reuters reports that US and Iranian officials sounded upbeat on Tuesday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who left Vienna for Tehran on Sunday for consultations with the country's leadership, arrived in Austria on Tuesday accompanied by the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi and the Iranian president’s brother Hossein Fereydoun.
"I am here to get a final deal, and I think we can," Zarif told reporters ahead of the meeting.
And afterwards, the US State Department described the meeting as “productive.”
Based on the interim agreement, known as the Joint Plan of Action, Iran agreed to take steps to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Now both sides are trying to agree on the details of the interim agreement, which has not been an easy task.
On Monday, a senior US administration official told reporters that "there are real and tough issues that remain which have to be resolved in order to get the comprehensive agreement, and we still do not know yet whether we will be able to get there."
The New York Times reports sticking points include:
... the scope of inspections, what arrangements might restrict the development of more efficient types of centrifuges after the first decade of the accord, the pace of sanctions relief and how to address suspicions that Iran has engaged in covert work on nuclear designs in previous years.
The senior American official discounted reports that the United States was seeking to renegotiate arrangements it agreed to in Lausanne that would allow Iran to use the underground installation it has built at Fordo for research instead of shutting it. Those provisions allow Iran to keep 1,000 centrifuges in that installation, but only a small portion can be operated in cascades to produce isotopes and none can be used to enrich uranium for at least 15 years.
The American officials are hoping to reach an agreement by July 9 and send the deal to Congress for a 30-day review. The US president cannot suspend the sanctions on Iran without a Congressional review.