World powers to push for early Iran nuke deal

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BRUSSELS: Iran and world powers will try to conclude a nuclear deal before a new summer deadline, a senior European diplomat said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), just days after negotiations ended unsuccessfully in Vienna.

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“The extension is until June 30 but there’s a clear commitment to capitalize on the momentum and get it done much earlier,” the diplomat said.

Iran and world powers failed on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) to clinch a landmark nuclear deal and defuse a 12-year standoff but gave themselves seven more months to reach agreement.

The failure followed an intensive five-day diplomatic push in the Austrian capital Vienna involving the foreign ministers of Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

“There was an absolute commitment to reach a deal but it was not enough to bridge the gaps,” the diplomat said, adding that negotiators would meet again in December.

“The format, place and level is yet to be decided,” the source said.

An agreement is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition Iran denies.

It could see painful sanctions on Iran lifted, silence talk of war and represent a much-needed success for both US President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

But the extension of international nuclear negotiations with Iran is likely to prompt a far-reaching showdown between the White House and US Republicans who seek to tighten economic screws against Tehran.

With hawkish lawmakers eager to pass new sanctions through Congress to prod the Islamic republic into a lasting deal that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, experts warned that attempts to impose economic penalties could rip apart the delicate negotiation process.

With the deadline now postponed a second time, some lawmakers want to hold Iranian leaders’ feet to the fire, insisting that since punitive sanctions brought Tehran to the negotiating table, passing new sanctions now will be the key to securing a lasting agreement.

Such a move could “undermine our entire position,” George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Agence France-Presse about US negotiating efforts.

“I can guarantee you if Congress passes new unilateral sanctions, the Iranians aren’t going to become more accommodating. It’ll be quite the opposite,” he said.

Not only will Tehran show fury, it could erode international support for the economic embargo and “alienate Turkey, India, China and other countries that you need to uphold sanctions.”

Perkovich said Iran’s leadership firmly believes Washington wants nothing less than regime change in Tehran, and that congressional intervention in the negotiating process would show them that Congress “can’t be relied upon to remove sanctions” in the future.

AFP

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