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iran nuclear deal

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the G7 summit in France on August 25.

He attended side-line talks in the seaside town of Biarritz where world leaders, including President Donald Trump, have gathered.

Reports suggest the US delegation was surprised by Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit, which comes at a time of high tension with Iran.

The Iranian official said on Twitter that he held “constructive” talks with his French counterpart and President Emmanuel Macron, adding he gave a joint briefing to German and British officials.

Mohammad Javad Zarif also met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on August 23 on the eve of the summit.

Relations between Iran and the US have deteriorated since Washington withdrew from a 2015 deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in 2018.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump Pulls US Out of Iran Nuclear Deal

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron Discuss New Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Five other nations – including France – remain committed to the deal, but Iran has started to ratchet up its nuclear activity in response to the US reinstating and tightening economic sanctions against them.

President Macron has taken an active role in trying to diffuse tensions and save the accord – but Iran’s relations with the West have strained further in recent months over a series of confrontations and oil tanker seizures in and around the Gulf.

Mohammad Javad Zarif was himself singled out for US sanctions last month, with US officials accusing him of implementing “the reckless agenda” of Iran’s leader.

Reports about the circumstances of his visit on Sunday are conflicting. French officials told reporters the foreign minister was invited in agreement with the US delegation, but White House officials have suggested they were taken by surprise.

They were also conflicting comments by President Macron and President Trump during the weekend as to whether G7 leaders had agreed a joint approach to easing tensions with Tehran.

On August 25, President Trump appeared to dismiss French mediation efforts.

He said: “We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”

Leaders from the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – have been attending the group’s 45th summit all weekend.

A range of topics, including the nuclear deal and Brexit, have been on the talks agenda.

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President Donald Trump wants to reinstate all US sanctions on Iran removed under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The White House said it was “the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed” on Tehran. The sanctions target both Iran and states that trade with it.

However, temporary waivers will be granted to eight countries to allow them to continue importing Iranian oil.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the move “disgraced” US prestige and liberal democracy.

He tweeted on November 3: “The challenge between the US and Iran has lasted for 40 years so far and the US has made various efforts against us: military, economic and media warfare.”

“This new US president has disgraced the remnant of America’s prestige,” he said, adding that “America today is far weaker”, suggesting that US military power was beginning to “wane and deteriorate”.

The sanctions will be reintroduce on Monday, November 5.

President Donald Trump Pulls US Out of Iran Nuclear Deal

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron Discuss New Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Meanwhile, EU states that backed the nuclear deal have said they will protect EU companies doing “legitimate” business with Iran.

President Trump withdrew from the agreement in May, describing it as “defective at its core” because it had not stopped Iran developing a ballistic missile program and intervening in neighboring countries.

The president tweeted after the announcement: “Sanctions are coming,” referencing the TV series Game of Thrones and its motto “Winter is coming”.

The US has been gradually re-imposing sanctions, but analysts say this move is the most important because it targets the core sectors of Iran’s economy.

The agreement saw Iran limit its controversial nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The US sanctions will cover shipping, shipbuilding, finance and energy.

More than 700 individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft will be put on the sanctions list, including major banks, oil exporters and shipping companies.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said that the Brussels-based Swift network for making international payments was expected to cut off links with targeted Iranian institutions.

Being disconnected from Swift would almost completely isolate Iran from the international financial system.

They are the second lot of sanctions re-imposed by President Trump since May.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set out 12 demands that Iran must meet if sanctions are to be lifted – including ending support for militants and completely ballistic missile development.

Mike Pompeo did not name the eight countries that been granted waivers to continue importing Iranian oil.

The secretary said the eight had “demonstrated significant reductions in their crude oil and co-operation on many other fronts”. Two would eventually stop imports and the other six greatly reduce them, he added.

US allies such as Italy, India, Japan and South Korea are among the eight, the Associated Press reports. Turkey also obtained a waiver, Reuters says.

All have been have been top importers of Iranian oil.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told state TV that Iran had “the knowledge and the capability to manage the country’s economic affairs”.

President Donald Trump has announced he will withdraw the US from an Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran.

Calling it “decaying and rotten”, President Trump said the deal was “an embarrassment” to him “as a citizen”.

Going against advice from European allies, the president said he would re-impose economic sanctions that were waived when the deal was signed in 2015.

Iran has responded saying that it was preparing to restart uranium enrichment, key for making both nuclear energy and weapons.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “The US has announced that it doesn’t respect its commitments.

“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels.”

Image source Flickr

Hassan Rouhani said he would “wait a few weeks” to speak to allies and the other signatories to the nuclear deal.

According to the Treasury, economic sanctions would not be re-imposed on Iran immediately, but would be subject to 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods.

In a statement on its website, the Treasury said sanctions would be re-imposed on the industries mentioned in the 2015 deal, including Iran’s oil sector, aircraft exports, precious metals trade, and Iranian government attempts to buy US dollar banknotes.

Gulf Leaders Skip Camp David Summit on Iran Deal

The UK, France and Germany – who are also signatories to the deal – have said they “regret” the American decision.

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said the EU was “determined to preserve” the deal.

However, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he “fully supports” President Trump’s “bold” withdrawal from a “disastrous” deal.

Donald Trump had previously complained that the deal only limited Iran’s nuclear activities for a fixed period; had failed to stop the development of ballistic missiles; and had handed Iran a $100 billion windfall that it used “as a slush fund for weapons, terror, and oppression” across the Middle East.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was involving in negotiating the deal, tweeted that pulling out of it risked “dragging the world back to the brink we faced a few years ago”.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) saw Iran agree to limit the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium – which is used to make reactor fuel, but also nuclear weapons – for 15 years and the number of centrifuges installed to enrich uranium for 10 years.

Iran also agreed to modify a heavy water facility so it could not produce plutonium suitable for a bomb.

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron met President Donald Trump in Washington to discuss a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

After talks, President Trump, who is skeptical of an accord that was struck in 2015, spoke about “doing a much bigger, maybe, deal”.

President Macron said a new pact must cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in the Middle East.

Iran warned of “severe consequences” if the US withdraws from the deal.

In 2015, Iran agreed to mothball its nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.

President Trump has been threatening to reject an extension of the Obama-era nuclear pact reached between Tehran and world powers by a May 12 deadline.

President Macron had been lobbying Donald Trump to stick with the deal, saying there was no better option.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit the US on April 27 to make a last-minute bid to dissuade President Trump from potentially torpedoing the agreement.

Image source Wikimedia

Iran Nuclear Deal Reached After Nine Years of Negotiations

Iran Nuclear Deal: US Imposes Fresh Sanctions over Ballistic Missile Test

Oil Prices Hit $75 over Prospect of New US Sanctions on Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying that Tehran would “most likely” abandon the accord if the US pulled out.

Referring to the 2015 accord which he described as “insane”, President Trump said: “They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria, that covered other parts of the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron agreed that Tehran’s influence in the region must be part of negotiations.

The French president also stressed that – as well as controlling Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade as envisaged by the current agreement – a fresh deal would need to cover its nuclear activities longer-term, as well as its ballistic missile program.

Emmanuel Macron talked about working with President Trump to build a “new framework” in the Middle East – and especially in Syria.

He said he did not know whether President Trump would extend the May 12 deadline, adding: “I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us.”

President Trump earlier warned Iran against resuming its nuclear program.

“They’re not going to be restarting anything. They restart it they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before,”

On April 23, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened “severe consequences” if the US withdrew from the deal.

Meanwhile, Javad Zarif said just hours before the Trump-Macron summit that a probable response would be to restart the enrichment of uranium – a key bomb-making ingredient.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful civilian purposes.

Iran is voting in two key elections – the first since a deal with world powers over its nuclear program and the lifting of sanctions.

Iranian voters are choosing a new parliament and Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that appoints the Supreme Leader.

Reformists are hoping to increase their influence in both institutions, which have been dominated by conservatives.

The outcome could affect reformist President Hassan Rouhani’s chances of re-election in 2017.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a big turnout to “disappoint our enemies”.

“Whoever likes Iran and its dignity, greatness and glory should vote. Iran has enemies. They are eyeing us greedily… People should be observant and vote with open eyes and should vote wisely,” he said after casting his vote.Iran elections 2016

The parliamentary elections are to choose 290 lawmakers for four-year terms. About 12,000 potential candidates registered, but only half were cleared to stand by the Guardian Council, a key body loyal to the Supreme Leader. Only about 200 moderate candidates got through the vetting process.

Voters will also select 88 clerics to the Assembly of Experts, who serve eight-year terms.

Members of the new Assembly might end up choosing the successor to Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 76 and has suffered ill-health.

Polls opened at 08:00 and close at 18:00, with some 55 million people eligible to vote.

However, officials say polling stations could stay open longer if there are queues and more time is needed.

Results for the Assembly of Experts are expected over the weekend. The results of the parliamentary election could take longer and it is likely to go to a second round in April as candidates need 25% of the vote to win outright.

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Fresh sanctions have been imposed on Iranian companies and individuals by the US over a recent ballistic missile test.

The new sanctions prevent 11 entities and individuals linked to the missile program from using the US banking system.

The move came after international nuclear sanctions on Iran were lifted as part of a deal hailed by President Barack Obama on January 17 as “smart”.

Four American-Iranians were also freed in a prisoner swap as part of the deal.

Among them was Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian – whom President Barack Obama described as “courageous”. A fifth American was freed separately.

Jason Rezaian and two of the others freed flew to a US base in Germany via Geneva for medical evaluation.US imposes new sanctions on Iran

Another, Nosratollah ­Khosravi-Roodsari, did not fly out with the others, US officials said. A fifth man, Matthew Trevithick, was freed in a separate process.

Meanwhile the US said it had offered clemency to seven Iranians being held in the US for sanctions violations.

Negotiations in December over the prisoner exchange delayed the US Treasury’s imposition of the latest sanctions.

They were only announced once the plane containing the former prisoners had left Iran, reports said.

They were triggered by Iran conducting a precision-guided ballistic missile test capable of delivering a nuclear warhead last October, violating a UN ban.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat to regional and global security, and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions,” said Adam J. Szubin, US acting under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Moments later, President Barack Obama hailed the nuclear deal, which is being implemented following verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran had restricted its sensitive nuclear activities.

“This is a good day because once again we’re seeing what’s possible with international diplomacy,” he said.

“For decades our differences meant our governments almost never spoke – ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests,” Barack Obama said.

The deal meant “Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb”, he said.

Barack Obama said differences with Iran remained, and the US would “remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilizing behavior elsewhere” – such as its missile tests.

The president defended a separate settlement at an international legal tribunal which will see the US repay Iran $400 million in funds frozen since 1981 plus a further $1.3 billion in interest – saying there was no point “dragging this out”.

Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the nuclear deal opened a “new chapter” in the country’s relations with the world.

Iran nuclear deal has been welcomed by many governments, the UN and EU – but disparaged by some US Republicans and Israel, which says it allows Iran to continue to “spread terror”.

The economic sanctions on Iran have been lifted after the country’s compliance with obligations under its nuclear agreement with world powers was certified.

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, announced the lifting of sanctions in accordance with the deal “as Iran has fulfilled its commitment”.

International nuclear watchdog IAEA said its inspectors had verified that Iran had taken the required steps.

A deal between Iran and world powers was agreed in July 2015.

The IAEA’s Director General Yukiya Amano said it was “an important day for the international community”.Iran sanctions lifted 2016

Lifting the international sanctions on Iran will unfreeze billions of dollars of assets and allow Iranian oil to be sold internationally.

As part of the deal, Iran had to drastically reduce its number of centrifuges and dismantle a heavy-water reactor near the town of Arak, both of which could be used in creating nuclear weapons.

Iran has always maintained its program is peaceful, but opponents of the deal – such as some US Republicans – say it does not do enough to ensure the country cannot develop a nuclear bomb.

Secretary of State John Kerry has ordered that US nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran be lifted.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani congratulated the nation following the IAEA announcement. The deal “had “borne fruit,” Hassan Rouhani tweeted, adding that he took “a bow before a patient nation like ours”.

On the same day it emerged that Iran had released Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-American prisoners in an apparent prisoner swap with the US.

Jason Rezaian, 39, was jailed on charges, including espionage, in November 2015.

America said it was offering clemency to seven Iranians being held in the US for sanctions violation.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-American prisoners have been released in Iran as it anticipates the lifting of international sanctions.

Jason Rezaian, 39, was convicted of espionage in Iran in 2015.

Iranian state TV named the other three as Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Nosratollah Khosravi.

Iran said they were being swapped for seven Iranians held in American prisons but there was no immediate US confirmation.

The Iranian state news agency listed the seven as Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghani, Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Saboun.

In addition, Iranian state TV said 14 Iranians sought by the US would be removed from an Interpol wanted list.

News of the releases came after Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif predicted that international sanctions against his country would be lifted on January 16.

Javad Zarif is in Vienna for talks with Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran’s nuclear deal.

Photo EPA

Photo EPA

The international nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is expected to confirm that Iran has scaled back its atomic activities in line with the agreement.

Billions of dollars of frozen Iranian assets are expected to be released and the sale of Iranian oil on the world market will again be permitted.

Lifting sanctions would unfreeze billions of dollars of assets and allow Iranian oil to be sold internationally.

Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post‘s Tehran correspondent, had been detained in Iran for more than a year before his sentencing last November. The WP has dismissed the charges as absurd.

Saeed Abedini, 35, is a Christian pastor who had been imprisoned since July 2012 for organizing churches in people’s houses.

Amir Hekmati, 32, is a former Marine who spent more than four years in prison on spying charges following his arrest in August 2011 during a visit to see his grandmother.

The detention of Khosrawi had not been previously released.

The Associated Press news agency had named the fourth prisoner known to be held in Iran as Siamak Namazi, a businessman and the son of a politician from the shah’s era.

The news agency added that a former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, had disappeared in Iran in 2007 while working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence mission.

The Washington Post said in a report that there had been no official US confirmation of the release.

Six world powers – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – have reached a historic deal with Iran in Vienna on limiting its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.

President Barack Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.

Negotiations between Iran and six world powers began in 2006.

The so-called P5+1 want Iran to scale back its sensitive nuclear activities to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.

Iran, which wants crippling international sanctions lifted, has always insisted that its nuclear work is peaceful.

In a televised address, President Barack Obama said the deal would make the world “safer and more secure”, and provided for a rigorous verification regime.

“This deal is not built on trust – it is built on verification,” he said.Iran nuclear deal reached in Vienna 2015

Immediately afterwards, Hassan Rouhani gave his own televised address, in which he said the prayers of Iranians had “come true”.

He said the deal would lead to the removal of all sanctions, adding: “The sanctions regime was never successful, but at the same time it had affected people’s lives.”

After 12 years, world powers had finally “recognized the nuclear activities of Iran”, he said.

Both Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif referred to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program as an “unnecessary crisis”.

Earlier, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the agreement was “a sign of hope for the entire world”.

“It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations,” she said.

Javad Zarif said the deal was “not perfect for anybody”, but that it was the “best achievement possible that could be reached”.

President barack Obama, who is trying to persuade a skeptical US Congress of the benefits, said it would oblige Iran to:

  • remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision
  • get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium
  • accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated
  • permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary when necessary”

Sanctions relief would be gradual, Barack Obama said, with an arms embargo remaining in place for five years and an embargo on missiles for eight years.

Separately, the IAEA and Iran said they had signed a roadmap to resolve outstanding issues.

IAEA head Yukiya Amano told reporters in Vienna, Austria, that his organization had signed a roadmap “for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program”.

He called the agreement a “significant step forward”, saying it would allow the agency to “make an assessment of issues relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program by the end of 2015”.

There has been stiff resistance to a deal from conservatives both in Iran and the US. The US Congress has 60 days in which to consider the deal, though Barack Obama said he would veto any attempt to block it.

Israel’s government has also warned against an agreement.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “historic mistake” that would provide Iran with “hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe”.

A framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program has been reached after marathon talks with six major powers in Switzerland.

Under the deal, Iran will reduce its uranium enrichment capacity in exchange for phased sanctions relief.

President Barack Obama said a “historic understanding” had been reached with Iran.

The world powers and Iran now aim to draft a comprehensive nuclear accord by June 30.

The framework agreement was announced by the European Union and Iran after 8 days of negotiations in Lausanne.

The talks between the so-called P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – and Iran at Lausanne’s Beau-Rivage Palace hotel continued beyond the original self-imposed deadline of March 31.Iran nuclear talks Lausanne 2015

Iran denies Western claims it is trying to build a nuclear weapon. It entered negotiations in order to see sanctions lifted.

According to the US, the outline deal includes the following conditions:

  • Iran will reduce its installed centrifuges – used to enrich uranium – by two-thirds and reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium
  • The centrifuges that are no longer in use will be placed in storage, monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • All of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be subject to regular IAEA inspections
  • Iran will redesign its heavy-water reactor in Arak so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium
  • US and EU sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program will be lifted in phases, but can be brought back if Iran does not meet its obligations.

Barack Obama said the deal’s implementation would be closely watched.

“If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” the president said, adding that the deal was based not on trust but on “unprecedented verification”.

He said the framework agreement had come after “months of tough, principled diplomacy”, and that it was “a good deal”.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking at a news conference alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif after agreement was reached, said a “decisive step” had been achieved.

“We have reached solutions on key parameters of a joint comprehensive plan of action,” she said.

Negotiators would now start “drafting the text” of the plan “guided by the solutions”, Federica Mogherini added.

News that a deal had been agreed emerged on Twitter, before the official news conference.

In a tweet, Javad Zarif said: “Found solutions, ready to start drafting immediately.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted: “Big day… Back to work soon on final deal.”

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu also took to Twitter to declare: “Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression.”

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Iran must halt its nuclear program for at least a decade if it wants to strike a deal with the US, President Barack Obama has said.

However, the odds are against talks with Iran ending with an agreement, Barack Obama told Reuters.

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are at a critical stage, with an outline agreement due on March 31.

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to urge the US Congress on March 3 to oppose a deal.

He was invited to speak at the US Capitol by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, angering Democrats.

Benjamin Netanyahu – who faces domestic elections in two weeks’ time – will not meet President Barack Obama during his visit to the US.

In his interview, Barack Obama said disagreements over Iran would not be “permanently destructive” to the US-Israel relationship.

However, Benjamin Netanyahu had been wrong on Iran before when he opposed an interim nuclear agreement struck last year, Barack Obama said.

“Netanyahu made all sorts of claims – this was going to be a terrible deal, this was going to result in Iran getting $50bn worth of relief, Iran would not abide by the agreement.”Barack Obama on Iran nuclear deal

None of that has come true, the president said.

“During this period we’ve seen Iran not advance its program. In many ways, it’s rolled back elements of its program.”

The US, along with the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, are seeking to reach agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

They are trying to address concerns that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons technology, something Tehran denies.

Secretary of State John Kerry is holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the ongoing negotiations ahead of a March 31 deadline for a framework agreement.

The aim is then to secure a final deal by June 30.

Barack Obama said that if Iran was willing to agree to “double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist… and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take” to ensure Iran does not have nuclear arms.

Barack Obama said that while a deal was still unlikely, it would be better than the alternatives.

“If they do agree to it, it would be far more effective in controlling their nuclear program than any military action we could take, any military action Israel could take, and far more effective than sanctions will be,” Barack Obama told Reuters.

The US goal is to make sure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one,” he said.

The Israelis say any agreement that leaves Iran with a workable nuclear industry, now or in the future, is too dangerous.

“I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them,” Benjamin Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington on March 2.

The leading Republican and Democrat on the House foreign relations committee have sent a letter to Barack Obama highlighting their concerns about a deal.

They said Congress must be convinced that any pathway Iran might have to developing a nuclear weapon is shut off before Congress considers easing sanctions.

US national security adviser Susan Rice has warned Congress not to seek new sanctions against Iran while the talks with world powers are ongoing.

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The deadline for Iran nuclear deal has been extended until June 30, 2015, after talks in Vienna failed to reach a comprehensive agreement.

Six world powers want Iran to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Tehran says it is not seeking nuclear weapons, but wants atomic energy.

The six countries – the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany – have been in negotiations with Iran to finalize a preliminary deal reached last year in Geneva.

Iran would be allowed to continue accessing $700 million per month in frozen assets during that period.

Diplomats expect to reach a political agreement by March 1, 2015, with the full technical details of the agreement confirmed by July 1, 2015.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is to give a national address this evening, Iranian news agencies reported.

There are thought to have been three key sticking points in the negotiations:

  • Western states want to reduce Iran’s capacity for uranium enrichment in order to prevent it acquiring weapons-grade material but Tehran is set on expanding it nearly twentyfold in the coming years
  • Iran wants sanctions lifted immediately but Western states want to stagger their removal to ensure Tehran abides by its commitments
  • Iran has failed to explain explosives tests and other activity that could be linked to a nuclear weapons program and has denied international nuclear inspectors access to its Parchin military site

Highly enriched uranium can be used to make a nuclear bomb, but uranium enriched to lower levels can be used for energy purposes.

Under the terms of international treaties, countries have the right to develop nuclear energy, which Iran insists is its only aim.

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has been unable to confirm Tehran’s assertions that its nuclear activities are exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The UN Security Council has adopted six resolutions since 2006 requiring Iran to stop enriching uranium, with sanctions to persuade Iran to comply.

The US and EU have imposed additional sanctions on Iranian oil exports and banks since 2012, hitting Iran’s oil revenue badly.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel are also vehemently opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal visited Vienna at the weekend for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, though his country is not formally involved in the discussions.

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