Zarif in Vienna

Iran talks likely to continue through weekend: Zarif

Iran accused major powers on Friday of backtracking on previous pledges and throwing up new “red lines” at nuclear talks, after the deadline to reach an agreement in time to receive expedited scrutiny from the U.S. Congress expired with no deal.

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a deal was unlikely to be reached on Friday and negotiators would probably spend the weekend in Vienna.

“Now, they have excessive demands,” he said of the powers’ negotiating position.

Zarif has been holding intense meetings for more than two weeks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to try to hammer out a final agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in return for withdrawing economic sanctions.

They have been joined periodically by foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, German and Russia, also party to any deal, which would be the biggest step towards rapprochement between Iran and the West since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But the negotiations have become bogged down, with final deadlines extended twice in the past 10 days and diplomats speaking of heated exchanges between Kerry and Zarif.

Because no deal was complete by Friday morning, any agreement would now be subject to 60 days of scrutiny by the sceptical, Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, rather than an expedited 30 day review.

On Thursday, Kerry made clear Washington’s patience was running out: “We can’t wait forever,” he told reporters. “If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this.”

Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Kerry’s remarks “part of America’s psychological warfare against Iran.”

A senior Iranian official speaking on condition of anonymity said the United States and the other powers were shifting their positions and backtracking on an April 2 interim agreement that was meant to lay the ground for a final deal.

“Suddenly everyone has their own red lines. Britain has its red line, the U.S. has its red line, France, Germany,” the official said.

Back in Iran, Friday provided a reminder of the depth of more than three decades of hatred between Iran and the West that a deal could help overcome.

Iranians rallied nationwide for the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan, observed in Iran as “Qods Day” or “Death to Israel day”, to show support for Palestinians, protest against Israel and chant slogans against the “Great Satan” United States.

By Reuters