As talks on Tehran's nuclear program go two days past their deadline, Iran's foreign minister says 'significant progress' has been made. But the devil is still in the details.
"We have made significant progress in the talks but still we have not agreed on the reviewed solutions," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters on Thursday, speaking after an all-night session of negotiations with world powers in Switzerland.
"We are working on setting parameters of the issues that will lead to drafting the final deal by end of June," he added.
Tehran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, echoed Zarif's remarks, telling reporters in Lausanne that "lots of progress" had been made overnight and that "sunrise is close."
The negotiations are aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear activities to the extent that Tehran would be unable to assemble enough material suitable for nuclear weapons in the near future. In return, world powers would lift extensive sanctions imposed on Iran.
International negotiators want to replace an interim deal struck in November 2013, which saw Iran freeze some nuclear activities in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions, with a comprehensive accord by June 30, when the 2013 agreement expires.
A self-imposed deadline to hammer out a framework for the new agreement ran out at midnight on Tuesday, with crucial details of the accord repeatedly leading to stalemate.
One major stumbling block is that Iran would like to see the duration of restrictions on its uranium enrichment program reduced and to have sanctions lifted immediately, whereas the six world powers engaged in the talks - the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China - want the curbs to last longer and to phase the sanctions out gradually.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said he will stay until at least Thursday in a bid to seal the agreement with Iran, with sources saying he would delay a trip to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
A failure to reach an agreement could result in the United States and Israel considering military action as a means to stop Tehran's nuclear drive.
Tehran has always insisted that its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes while the West fears Iran could be using the program to develop nuclear weapons.
tj/sms (Reuters, AFP)