Iran and six world powers reported minor progress Friday on drafting the wording of a nuclear deal, but key sections of the document remained blank, reflecting significant differences on how much Iran needs to limit its nuclear program in exchange for full relief from sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a pact was possible at the next round scheduled for July 2. He said agreement currently was confined to the title and “general framework” of a possible accord.
“This text has more parentheses compared to the number of words,” he said, referring to the blank sections in the draft.
Two Western diplomats familiar with the talks earlier in the day reported little movement on the main dispute, with Iran resisting US-led attempts to place strict constraints on uranium enrichment, a process that can produce both reactor fuel and the fissile core of nuclear arms.
Iran says it does not want such weapons and is pushing to keep its present enrichment capacity, while Washington seeks deep cuts in the nearly 20,000 enriching centrifuges that Iran has operating or on standby. Slow progress over six rounds has clouded chances of meeting a July 20 target date for a deal.
US chief negotiator Wendy Sherman described this week’s talks as “very tough” and at a “critical point.”
Zarif said the US had the “toughest stance” of the six powers, which include Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, and was under pressure from other governments to retreat. He described the existing anti-Iran measures enacted by the US government as a “spider web” that was limiting American negotiators’ room for maneuver.