Last updated: 4 June, 2014

Iran says it is optimistic on nuclear deal by July 20

A major nuclear deal between world powers and Iran can still be achieved by next month as planned, Tehran said Wednesday as lack of progress recently raised fears the talks had hit a wall.

Iran and the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany — are trying to draft a potentially historic nuclear agreement by July 20. But the latest round of negotiations in mid-May ended with both sides deploring that no “tangible progress” had been made.

“We believe that we can meet the deadline set out in the Geneva agreement and we work toward that aim,” Iran’s ambassador to the UN atomic watchdog IAEA, Reza Najafi, said Wednesday in Vienna.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith with our counterparts… (to reach) a long-term comprehensive solution that would be advantageous to both sides,” he told journalists.

Iran and the six world powers were widely expected to start drafting an agreement at their last meeting in Vienna, but came away speaking of “huge” gaps between their positions.

On Wednesday, experts from both sides began meeting again in Vienna in preparation for the next round of talks on June 16-20.

“We believe there is a good atmosphere in the meeting and that we can elaborate and perhaps find ways to resolve the concerns of both sides,” Najafi said.

Earlier, US delegate Joseph Macmanus had also told journalists that talks were continuing with the July 20 deadline in mind.

“That’s what we’re still focused on,” he said.

The July 20 deadline can in theory be extended, but US President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani could struggle to keep sceptical and impatient hardliners from their respective countries at bay.

Western powers fear Iran is seeking an atomic bomb under cover of its nuclear programme, but Tehran insists its nuclear drive is solely for peaceful purposes.

While the IAEA has welcomed efforts by Iran to comply with recent agreements and alleviate concerns about its nuclear programme, several member states urged it on Wednesday to step up the pace of cooperation — calls that Najafi dismissed.

“These issues are very complicated,” he said.

“The agency announced in its report that it needs time to analyse the information… so it is not a work that should be done in a hurried manner. Everything should be done in due course,” Najafi added, urging patience.