Iran Nuclear Talks Enter New Phase as Diplomats Begin Drafting

Negotiators working toward a final accord to defuse the decade-long conflict over Iran’s nuclear work intensified diplomacy by trying to draft the text of a possible agreement.

“We are moving to a new phase of the negotiation where we start pulling together what an outline agreement could look like,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who’s leading the talks. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

This week’s meetings are the longest round of haggling since November, when diplomats agreed to a temporary accord. Negotiators led by Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have raised hopes by showing willingness to compromise.

Iran agreed to modify a reactor in Arak to lower its plutonium output, which could be used in nuclear weapons, and has offered greater access for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. The U.S. has stepped back from demands that Iran cease all uranium-enrichment activities.

Diplomats may need another three rounds of negotiations before they’re able to strike a deal, Zarif told the official Islamic Republic News Agency yesterday.

The U.S. is prepared to take however long is necessary to hammer out an accord by the July 20 deadline, said an administration official at the talks. The person asked not to be identified because the negotiations aren’t public.

‘Tough Decisions’

“It is the Americans that must make tough decisions in negotiations and stop threats and sanctions because this will be a historic decision for American officials,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said yesterday in Vienna, according to Press TV.

“The most important thing is to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran that assures the international community,” Mann said.

Unresolved issues include potential regulations imposed on Iran’s enrichment capacity, sanctions relief and the direction of future nuclear research and development in Iran.

This week’s Vienna round of talks is expected to run through May 16, Mann said.

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