by Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
France won't sign deal unless Tehran provides inspectors access to all installations • Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rules out international inspection of Iran's military sites • U.S. insists on June 30 deadline, says not contemplating extension.
France warned on Wednesday it was ready to block a final deal between Iran and the six major powers on Iran's nuclear program unless Tehran provided inspectors access to all installations, including military sites.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out international inspection of Iran's military sites or access to nuclear scientists under any agreement. Iran's military leaders echoed his remarks.
"France will not accept [a deal] if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers in Paris.
As talks resumed in Vienna on Wednesday to bridge gaps in negotiating positions before a June 30 deadline, the United States said it was not considering an extension, despite comments from France and Iran indicating wiggle room.
"We're not contemplating any extension beyond June 30," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington, saying the United States believed it was possible to meet the self-imposed deadline.
To that end, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Geneva on May 30. Lead U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman flew to Vienna on Wednesday for nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers and will join Kerry in Geneva before resuming talks in the Austrian capital.
Iran's state TV quoted senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi as saying the deadline could be extended, echoing comments by France's ambassador to the United States. Gérard Araud said on Tuesday that a deal was not likely by June 30 because technical details would still need to be resolved.
"The deadline might be extended and the talks might continue after the June 30 [deadline]," Araqchi said. "We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands."
France is considered to be demanding more stringent restrictions on the Iranians under any deal than the other Western delegations, officials said, although U.S. officials have cautioned that France's position privately is not as tough as it is publicly.
A tentative agreement was reached between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China on April 2, but several issues remain unresolved.
Among them are the pace of easing Western sanctions imposed over the Iranian program and the monitoring and verification measures to ensure Iran could not pursue a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Iran denies any ambition to develop nuclear weapons and says its program is purely peaceful.
"The talks are serious, complicated and detailed. The pace of talks is slow as we have entered final stages," Araqchi said upon his arrival in Vienna, state TV reported.
Speaking a day after meeting the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in Paris, Fabius also appeared to suggest differences with other members of the P5+1, saying he hoped all of them would adopt France's position.
"'Yes' to an agreement, but not to an agreement that will enable Iran to have the atomic bomb. That is the position of France, which is independent and peaceful," he said.
Meanwhile, amid the new round of Iran nuclear talks, Iranians have been captivated this week by a leaked video showing a vehement argument between a hard-line lawmaker and the country's foreign minister.
Differing statements from Iranian officials over what's acceptable for Tehran at the talks with six world powers have accompanied the negotiations since the start of international attempts nearly a decade ago to reach a diplomatic solution over Iran's contested nuclear program. Hard-liners fear that negotiators are betraying Iran's interests by being too conciliatory, while moderates chastise their opponents for jeopardizing the talks with unrealistic demands.
But Iranians usually are not privy to the kind of bitter recriminations that a video posted on social media Monday has revealed. It shows Zarif and hard-line lawmaker Mahdi Kouchakzadeh in a heated exchange, apparently at the end of a closed session of parliament.
Khamenei "calls you a traitor," Kouchakzadeh says. "I say this from his tongue."
But Zarif, his face red with anger, berates the lawmaker for daring to speak for Khamenei.
"You are damned dead wrong," he declares.\
The footage appears to have been filmed with a mobile phone and leaked by a lawmaker. Several legislators are demanding that the incident be investigated and the leaker be prosecuted.
The video was posted with the talks moved closer to the June 30 deadline. As they resumed Wednesday in Vienna, Khamenei indirectly backed Zarif, who has been Iran's lead negotiator at previous sessions and is expected to rejoin the negotiators at a later stage.
Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=25779 Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.