Iran’s Talks with Big Powers ‘Near the Summit’

VIENNA: While some issues remained unsolved, diplomats from Iran and world powers said that a deal could be ready later this Monday.

 An Iran deal is in its final stages and could be ready this week, senior Iranian and Western officials said Monday, as talks over a comprehensive Iran nuclear deal entered their 16th day.

“I cannot promise whether the remaining issues can be resolved tonight or tomorrow night. Some issues still remain unresolved and until they are solved, we cannot say an agreement has been reached,” Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted Monday Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi as saying in Vienna. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Vienna, a strong indication that the six world powers negotiating with Iran – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – are preparing to make a major announcement.

“The foreign ministers are gathered to bring the negotiations to a conclusion,” he said, according to his official translator. “We believe there could not be further delay.”

As rain drenched the Austrian capital on the 17 th straight day of this round of talks – quite possibly the last day — expectations were soaring that before the day is over, the diplomats would let the world know of a historic agreement that will potentially alter the way Iran interacts with the rest of the world.

In Iran, where international sanctions have hobbled the economy, people were ready to launch into a celebration over a deal that could eventually ease their struggles.

“Today is the day!” shouted a banner headline in the Iranian newspaper Shargh Daily over a large photograph of Zarif smiling with his hands cupped to his ears as he appeared on the hotel balcony Sunday and listened to reporters shouting out questions from across the street three floors below.

An unnamed senior Iranian official was quoted by Reuters news agency Sunday as saying 99 percent of the issues had been resolved. “With political will we can finish the work late tonight and announce it tomorrow,” the official said.

Other diplomats involved in the talks confirmed a deal was close. “From the viewpoint of the minister, there are only a few elements missing for a watertight agreement with Iran,” anonymous German government source close to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Reuters Sunday. 

“Negotiations are currently in the absolute final phase and are running intensely through the night,” the source added. 

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian delegation, said on Twitter that the draft agreement Iran and the powers were working on was “a 100-page document.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will address the nation on state television on Monday night, a media official told AFP, amid reports a nuclear deal with world powers could be imminent.

Rouhani’s appearance is scheduled for around 10:00 pm (1730 GMT) the official said, noting that the president would talk about the negotiations taking place in Vienna.

Iran and five world powers, namely the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, have been engaged in years of negotiations aimed at ending the standoff between the West and Tehran over host of issues. 

Over the years, the U.S. and its allies have accused Iran of developing a nuclear weapon. Iran has repeatedly denied those allegations and stated that its program was intended for civil purposes, which is every nation’s right under international treaties. 

The possible deal would see an agreement that Iran would guarantee that its nuclear capabilities will be peaceful, in exchange for lifting of crippling economic sanctions imposed soon after Islamic Revolution toppled West backed monarchial system from the most populous and prosperous Middle eastern nation.

One of the main contentious issues is a United Nations arms embargo, imposed on Iran since 2006. The lifting of the embargo is one of Iran’s main demand for any deal. 

Other key issues in the agreement include Iran granting nuclear inspectors access to it military facilities, sharing details of past nuclear activity with the inspectors, and the speed of the sanctions relief, which Tehran demands be immediate.

Oil prices fall on looming Iran deal

Oil prices fell Monday as Iran and major western powers said they were closer than ever to a landmark nuclear deal that would lift sanctions and hike Tehran’s crude exports.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery was down 23 cents at $52.51 barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for August slid 70 cents to stand at $58.03 a barrel in London afternoon deals.

Any deal will result in the lifting of punishing economic sanctions, allowing the country to resume oil exports.

More Iranian oil however will add to a supply glut, which has depressed prices.

Israel Dismayed

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s defense minister says the Western powers’ pending nuclear deal with Iran will force the Jewish state to “defend itself, by itself.”

Negotiators appeared on the verge of signing a final deal Monday that would lift longstanding sanctions on Iran. Israel has been among the fiercest critics of the talks, saying the world was making undue concessions without getting enough in return from an Islamic Republic that has made no secret of its belligerent intentions.

Moshe Yaalon says Israel’s assumption is that a “bad nuclear deal” was imminent. He said the agreement would not succeed in closing a single reactor or destroy a single centrifuge. He said Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and other Middle East nations shared Israel’s concerns.

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