NEW DELHI — Iran’s nuclear negotiations are “going well”, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday, ahead of a crucial meetings to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear deal.
However, Zarif also said Iran would not consider dismantling its nuclear program.
Iran and a 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 program in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions.
Under a landmark interim deal clinched in November, Iran agreed to curb parts of the program for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into effect on January 20.
“The (nuclear) negotiations are going well … I’m hoping by the first deadline (July 20) we will reach an agreement,” Zarif told reporters on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi.
However, he said that there were still disagreements between the sides, referencing a “problem in terms of both substance and approach.” He added that Iran would not get rid of its enrichment program.
“I can tell you that Iran’s nuclear program will remain intact. We will not close any program,” he said, according to Reuters.
Leading a high-ranking delegation, Zarif is scheduled to hold talks with top Indian officials to open a “new chapter” with New Delhi on his two-day visit that began Thursday.
Negotiators hope to reach a final accord by July 20, when the interim agreement reached in November is due to expire.
A top Iranian negotiator told IRNA news agency that Iran and world powers would hold technical talks on the sidelines of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors next week.
He did not specify dates, but the board is set to meet in Vienna from March 3 to 7.
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.
Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, charges denied by Tehran.
“From our point of view it is essential for the world to accept that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful,” said Zarif in his speech at the New Delhi event.
“We do not have an interest in possession of nuclear weapons.”