Iran’s Zarif expects “tougher, more serious” round of nuclear talks

DUBAI – Iran’s foreign minister said on Sunday he expects a more difficult round of nuclear talks with six world powers as the two sides try to iron out details such as Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor and levels of uranium enrichment.

The two sides are to meet again in Vienna on Tuesday to try to build on an interim agreement reached late last year in Geneva by reaching a final settlement of the decade-old dispute over the Islamic Republic’s atomic activities by late July.

“This round of negotiations compared to the previous ones will be more serious and tougher,” Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told a news conference broadcast on state TV. “We do not expect to come to an agreement.”

None was expected so soon in the new round of negotiations, Western diplomats said earlier. The six powers and Iran have set a deadline of late July to reach a long-term agreement.

Most of Iran’s 290 parliamentarians came out strongly on Sunday against putting any limits on the Arak heavy water reactor, which remains under construction.

“They (negotiators) should not accept any bans on the development of the Arak heavy water complex and the fact of enrichment,” said a statement signed by 220 MPs and carried by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

The Arak reactor, seen by the West as a potential source of plutonium for nuclear bombs, has emerged as a big stumbling block in Iran’s talks with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China on a deal that would define the overall scope of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

The Islamic Republic has long denied accusations from Israel, Western powers and their allies that it has tried to develop the capability to produce atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program.

In November, Iran and the six powers struck an interim deal under which Tehran shelved higher-grade uranium enrichment and agreed to other constraints in exchange for modest relief from punitive economic sanctions.

By The Jerusalem Post


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