As the parties to the Iranian nuclear talks have gathered in Vienna to reach at a final agreement, Tehran demanded a quick removal of the United Nations’ (UN) sanctions and arms embargo on its ballistic missile programme which it has been regarding as a different issue than its nuclear programme.
"The Iranians want the ballistic missile sanctions lifted. They say there is no reason to connect it with the nuclear issue, a view that is difficult to accept," one Western official told Reuters on condition of anonymity on Monday, adding that,. "There's no appetite for that on our part."
Iranian nuclear envoy led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif resumed nuclear talks on Monday in Vienna ahead of Tuesday's deadline with the world powers, dubbed P5+1, including the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany.
"The Western side insists that not only should it [Iran's ballistic missile programme] remain under sanctions, but that Iran should suspend its program as well," an Iranian official told Reuters.
"But Iran is insisting on its rights and says all the sanctions, including on the ballistic missiles, should be lifted when the UN sanctions are lifted," he added.
Some Iranian officials, who were also attending to the nuclear talks in Vienna, told reporters that the UN embargo over Tehran’s ballistic missile programme should be lifted as part of the possible nuclear agreement, but a senior Western diplomat also told reporters that such Iranian demand was "out of the question.”
After a 12-year of stand-off with the West, Iran and the P5+1 group had reached a preliminary framework nuclear agreement in Switzerland on April 2.
The Western participants to the nuclear negotiations still regard that there were huge lingering issues that Tehran needs to fulfill for striking a fair deal, while Russia and China bloc was maintaining its optimism by pushing the Iranian leadership ahead of the extended talks which were started to be held from the weekend till Tuesday.
The West has long been claiming that Iran was seeking to obtain nuclear bombs through its massive nuclear activities, but Tehran denies all allegations and says its nuclear programme would aim to meet civilian needs of energy demands.
The UN Security Council had imposed some sanctions and arms embargo following the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports indicated that Iran was seeking the ways for developing nuclear bombs from 2003 onwards.
Iran and the US perceive as a final nuclear agreement could ease the decades old tension since 1979 if the parties may agree, but there were still "several of the most difficult issues" that hamper to strike the final deal according to the US side that is represented by the Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna.
As the nuclear talks gained momentum with the West, Iran has also increased its military cooperation with Russia which has lifted very recently a ban on selling of the S-300 missile defence system to Tehran.
Iran has welcomed Russia’s act of lifting ban on the aforementioned missile deal as the Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan claimed that Moscow’s decision to end ban could “lead to stability” in the region.
The deal supplying S-300 missile defence system to Iran had been signed in 2007, but it was suspended unilaterally by Russia when the UN Security Council imposed an arm embargo over Iran.
Russia was Iran’s principal foreign arm supplier since Moscow has long been backing Iran’s nuclear programme vis-à-vis the West.
By lifting the ban on the missile deal, Russia also started an oil-for-goods swap with Tehran which is expected to ease sanctions over Iran before a final nuclear agreement is sealed between the parties.
The US administration expressed its discontent with both missile deal and oil for goods proposal as it could conflict with the sanctions regime imposed on Iran by the United States and other Western nations.
However, the Israeli side, foremost the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who strongly opposed a possible nuclear deal with Tehran by the very beginning, believes a nuclear agreement would "pave Iran's path to a nuclear arsenal."
"It will give them a jackpot of hundreds of billions of dollars with which to continue to fund their aggression and terror - aggression in the region, terror throughout the world," Netanyahu told reporters on Monday in Jerusalem.
Iran and Israel have long been confronting in their security rhetoric in the region where Israel is believed to be the only nuclear power whereas Iran was accused to have been secretly obtaining the nuclear weapons.
The international watchdog said on its June monthly report on Iran that Tehran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium gas dropped below the maximum level required under 2013 level, but it insists upon a comprehensive investigation of the nuclear reactors as well as military sites.
However, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei echoed the views of hardline revolutionary guards who essentially objected to the IAEA’s access to Iran’s military sites.
"Inspection of our military sites is out of the question and is one of our red lines," Khamenei said and 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.
Iran demands an immediate removal of sanctions, as well as the release of nearly 100 billion dollars worth of its assets around the world.
But, the West still persists a complete removal of sanctions would depend on the IAEA’s full-fledged access into Iran’s nuclear facilities and freely deliver a comprehensive report on its findings which will confirm or deny the allegations attributed to Tehran.