DUBAI - Iran hopes enough progress will be made at talks with major powers this week to let negotiators start drafting an accord to settle a dispute over its nuclear program, a top Iranian negotiator said according to state-linked media.
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 US 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 Jan. 20, was designed to buy time for talks on a long-term deal.
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 Ashton.
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.