The Islamic Republic and six world powers will hold a fresh round
of talks in Vienna on Tuesday and Wednesday intended to reach a
comprehensive agreement by July 20 on how to resolve a decade-old
standoff that has stirred fears of a Middle East war.
Iran says its enrichment program is a peaceful bid to generate
electricity and has ruled out shutting any of its nuclear
facilities. It denies having any plans to develop nuclear bombs.
Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi, a top negotiator, was quoted
as saying by Press TV on Sunday: "We hope that in the upcoming
talks, we would be able to bring the views closer and narrow the
differences regarding major issues, so we could get to the details
... and start writing the text."
A senior U.S. administration official, speaking on Friday, said both
sides had intended to spend March and April going over "every single
issue that we believed had to be addressed in a comprehensive
agreement" before work started on drafting in May.
"We are on pace with that work plan, looking toward beginning
drafting in May," the official said.
The aim of the talks is to hammer out a long-term deal to define the
permissible scope of Iran's nuclear program in return for a lifting
of sanctions that are damaging its oil-dependent economy.
In November, Iran and the six nations agreed an interim accord to
curb Tehran's atomic activities in exchange for some easing of
sanctions. The six-month deal, which took effect on January 20, was
designed to buy time for talks on a long-term deal.
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Iran has said it had useful expert-level nuclear talks with world
powers in Vienna last week, addressing all major technical issues in
the way of a final settlement.
Iranian negotiator Hamid Baeedinejad told the official IRNA news
agency on Saturday that the results of those technical discussions
would be submitted on Monday to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad
Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine
Zarif and Ashton, who acts on behalf of the six world powers — the
United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain, will lead
the negotiations due to take place this week.
Western officials say wide differences remain between the two sides.
(Reporting by William Maclean and Lou Charbonneau;
Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Heavens)
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