Five days from deadline, West waits for answer from Tehran

Israeli envoy says deal on table allows Iran to retain nuclear capability.

November 20, 2014 03:10
2 minute read.
iran talks vienna

Demonstrators protest against Iran's regime opposite Coburg Palace, the venue of talks on Iran's disputed nuclear programm in Vienna November 19, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – World powers are waiting for Iran to respond to a proposed deal on its nuclear program requiring more concessions than Tehran has accepted so far, and fewer than those sought by Israel.

But just five days away from a self-imposed deadline on negotiations, Iranian officials continued to pour water over the prospect of dismantling much, if any, of its nuclear infrastructure.

Western powers accuse Iran of building a nuclear program far beyond its stated civilian purposes.

“Reaching a deal depends on the political will of the other side,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the country’s state-run news agency, IRNA.

Iran would resist Western pressure to make what it considers to be excessive concessions in the talks for a comprehensive deal, the report said. And, after nearly a year of negotiating, it also remains unclear whether any deal reached by diplomats based in Vienna will be accepted by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“We all knew that tough decisions – the toughest decisions – would not be taken till the end,” one senior Obama administration official said this week. “And that is likely to be the case, if they can be taken at all.”

From London, after hosting US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the progress of talks, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond suggested the deadline might be met with an agreement.

“I believe a deal can be done,” Hammond said. “But we will not do a bad deal. These negotiations are extremely tough, and Iran needs to show more flexibility if we are to succeed.”

Standing beside Hammond, Kerry said the parties, including the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, faced a “critical week” ahead.

An interim deal agreed upon last year, and set in motion in January of 2014, grants the parties a year to negotiate. An extension of the talks likely would require the parties to renegotiate the interim pact.

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday on the situation in Jerusalem, Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said the deal on the table would allow Iran to retain “nuclear weapons capability” – the ability to produce bombs in several months time – should the country’s political elite choose to break the agreement.

The point of sanctions was not to freeze the program, Dermer said, but to force Iran into a position to choose between keeping the program or an open economy. The Israeli government seeks the full dismantlement of the program, and disagreed with the US in its decision to grant Iran the right to enrich on its own soil.

One official told The Jerusalem Post last week that Israel expects “generous concessions” to be included in any agreement, one that is more likely than not to close in the coming days.

The current deadline on talks is November 24.

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