Iranian President Hassan Rowhani receiving visiting Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders at the Presidential office in Tehran yesterday.
TEHRAN: Iran and world powers will hold technical talks “next week” in Vienna ahead of a political meeting to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear deal, a top Iranian negotiator said yesterday.
Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers agreed last week on a timetable and framework for the negotiations for an accord that would allay Western concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions.
“The issues on the agenda are enrichment (of uranium), the lifting of sanctions and international cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy,” said Abbas Araqchi, also a deputy foreign minister.
Cited by the official Irna news agency, Araqchi said the talks would take place on the sidelines of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors “next week.”
He did not specify the dates but the board is set to convene a meeting in Vienna from March 3 to 7.
Negotiators hope to reach a final accord by July 20, when an interim agreement reached in November is set to expire.
Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, charges denied by Tehran.
Under the interim deal, Iran agreed to curb or freeze parts of its nuclear programme for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into effect January 20.
Political directors from the P5+1 group of world powers — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany — are set to resume talks with Iranian nuclear negotiators on March 17 in Vienna.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, lead negotiator for the P5+1, will visit Tehran on March 9 and 10, according to Iranian media reports.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday expressed concern at the progress of talks between world powers and Iran, saying that Tehran still sought to acquire a nuclear arms capability.
“Iran, in fact, is getting everything and giving virtually nothing,” he told the cabinet on the eve of a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said he would discuss the issue with her.
“I view with concern the fact that Iran believes that it will realise its plan to become a threshold nuclear state with an enrichment capacity that it thinks cannot be touched, with the ability to develop both nuclear weapons and inter-continental missiles, which it is continuing to work on unhindered,” he said in remarks relayed by his office.
“This is the current situation. The permanent agreement cannot render this situation permanent. It must dismantle the Iranian ability to either produce or launch nuclear weapons,” he added. Germany — with the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France — is a member of the P5 + 1 group seeking to forge a lasting nuclear accord to resolve a decade-old stand-off over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
An op-ed piece by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier published yesterday in the top-selling Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot told Israelis: “You are not alone.” “The Iranian nuclear programme looms threateningly on the horizon,” he wrote.
“The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are debating in Vienna the future of Iran’s nuclear programme. Our objective is clear: Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear arms.”
Netanyahu’s strategic affairs minister, Yuval Steinitz met Washington’s chief negotiator at the Iran talks, Wendy Sherman, who briefed him on the negotiations, Israeli army radio said.