French diplomat warns Iran deal unlikely by deadline
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French diplomat warns Iran deal unlikely by deadline

Gerard Araud says understandings by June 30 could just be ‘fuzzy air’; German, UK envoys warn sanctions could be lifted without deal

German Ambassador to the US, Peter Wittig (R) speaks alongside French Ambassador to the US, Gerard Araud about the Iranian nuclear negotiations at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, May 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB
German Ambassador to the US, Peter Wittig (R) speaks alongside French Ambassador to the US, Gerard Araud about the Iranian nuclear negotiations at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, May 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

France’s ambassador to the US said Tuesday that world powers and Iran will probably miss an end-of-June deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, as his German and British counterparts warned the sanctions against Tehran could crumble if no deal was reached.

Gerard Araud said it’s “very likely” there will be no deal in the next five weeks, or even afterward.

He said much technical work remains, meaning any understanding reached could just be “fuzzy air.”

Araud spoke Tuesday at an Atlantic Council event alongside the British and German ambassadors to the US. The three European countries are negotiating alongside the US, Russia and China.

Speaking at the same event, German Ambassador to the US Peter Wittig warned that “if diplomacy fails, then the sanctions regime might unravel,” according to Bloomberg. He said that if Congress torpedoed a deal, various countries would stop complying with the international restrictions.

However, if a deal were to be reached, he maintained that the easing of sanctions would be gradual and would not take place before the end of the year, at best.

UK Ambassador Peter Westmacott similarly noted that several countries are already skirting the sanctions, and cautioned that unless the lack of a deal was “incontrovertibly” viewed as the Islamic Republic’s fault, the sanctions would likely be harder to uphold.

Araud, however, denied sanctions would be lifted, saying it would require a unanimous EU vote.

Iran’s deputy oil minister said Monday he hoped for a total lifting of international sanctions later this year if a nuclear deal is struck with world powers by June 30.

Amirhossein Zamani-Nia also told the oil ministry’s Shana news agency that the lifting of sanctions could help Iran’s oil and gas sectors attract billions of dollars in foreign investment.

“The structure of sanctions is being destroyed bit by bit and we could expect a total lifting of the sanctions towards the month of Azar,” which in Iran falls between November 22 and December 21, he said.

“If the sanctions are lifted, Iran will become a central point for oil and gas projects,” Zamani-Nia said.

The proposed deal would freeze Iran’s nuclear program for a decade, while providing Iran tens of billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief. Iran says its program is solely for peaceful purposes. Many governments fear it harbors nuclear weapons ambitions.

AFP contributed to this report.

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