The June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal has been missed as Iran and six world powers attempting to pace up the negotiations, with both sides cautioning that the major obstacles to a final agreement are not solved.
Vienna talks would continue as long as required until a final deal is implemented, as diplomats said. The deal is expected to halt economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits of Iran’s nuclear activities.
The West has long been blaming Iran of seeking to obtain nuclear bombs through its massive nuclear activities, but Tehran denies all allegations and accusations and says its nuclear programme would aim to meet civilian needs of energy demands.
After a decade of deadlock, Iran and the P5+1 group -the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany- had reached a preliminary framework nuclear agreement in Switzerland on April 2.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went on Sunday to Tehran for consultations with the leadership. US Secretary of State John Kerry has remained in Vienna to wait Zarif’s return and the arrival of the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China.
A senior US administration official told reporters that "There are real and tough issues that remain which have to be resolved in order to get the comprehensive agreement, and we still do not know yet whether we will be able to get there,"
"I am here to get a final deal, and I think we can," he told reporters." Zarif was also due to meet his German and Russian counterparts later.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have been working into the night with Iran for more than a week, attempting to reach a deal that all sides would agree.
The real deadline is not June 30 but July 9 as diplomats have said.
If the deal is reached until July 9, a mandatory congressional review period before President Barack Obama can begin suspending sanctions is limited to 30 days. If the deal is reached later, the review will last 60 days, with increasing risks for congressional moves that can kill the deal.
The pace and timing of sanctions relief for Iran are the main differences as well as the nature of monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with the deal.
The main obstacle that delayed the deal is Western demands to let the UN inspectors have access to Iranian nuclear scientists as well the military sites.
Access to military sites is a red line set by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but western diplomats say they are close to reach a resolution.
The US official said that the six powers had to confirm that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would have the required access, but the Iranians resist wide monitoring authorities thus delaying an agreement.
Earlier this month, the IAEA reported that Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate with the international investigators would cause a transparency problem, without that the watchdog said it cannot "conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
The international nuclear watchdog urged Tehran on more cooperation and willingness for its investigation on the nuclear issue until the punitive sanctions imposed by the West are completely lifted following a prospective final deal.
Last week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed freezing of the country’s long-standing nuclear programme for a long period of time as a necessity of prospective final agreement with the West.
Khamenei ruled out such a move to interrupt Iran’s nuclear facilities on which Tehran and the West have long been disputing as he regarded the Western imposition as “unacceptable” to implement for a long time.
"Inspection of our military sites is out of the question and is one of our red lines," Khamenei said when he echoed the views of hardline revolutionary guards who essentially objected to the IAEA’s access to the Iran’s military sites.
The preliminary deal reached in Switzerland between the parties specifies that Iran will decrease two thirds of its uranium enrichment centrifuges and limits the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent, which would prevent Iran from making a nuclear bomb. Many of the restrictions will expire in 15 years.
The deal also decreases Iranian uranium stockpiles from 10,000 kilograms to 300 which will be enriched only by Arak Nuclear Reactor under the inspection of the IAEA.
In return, the 10-year-deal promises Iran that all UN sanctions on Tehran will end with Iran’s fulfilment of the criteria within a planned calendar, after a prospective final deal was put into force.