Framework produced but chances of a deal fading as Iran talks drag on
The world's leading powers were awaiting new proposals from Iran last night after a week of talks over Tehran's nuclear programme achieved a "framework of understanding", but no deal.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, said there would be "new recommendations", adding: "I can't predict whether that will be sufficient to enable an agreement to be reached."
After overrunning their deadline by 24 hours, the negotiations in the Swiss town of Lausanne have now lasted for seven days. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, spent 11 hours in meetings with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Tuesday alone.
But the talks remain impaled on two vital questions. Iran wants sanctions to be lifted as soon as an agreement is signed; America prefers a gradual easing of the pressure, linked to the steps that Iran would take to constrain its nuclear programme. Iran also insists that its scientists must be allowed to continue developing a new generation of advanced centrifuges. America and its allies want to limit this work.
Abbas Araqchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister, laid these divisions bare during an interview with state television, saying: "For sure, our research and development of advanced centrifuge machines should continue. We insist on lifting of financial, oil and banking sanctions immediately."
So far, these hurdles have been impossible to overcome.
The negotiations with Iran are handled by the five permanent members of the Security Council - America, Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany. Three of the "P5 plus 1" foreign ministers have left the talks: Sergei Lavrov of Russia, Wang Yi of China and Laurent Fabius of France.
They are now represented by deputy ministers or officials.
Mr Steinmeier said that the "P5 plus 1" were prepared to consider new ideas from Iran at another late-night meeting, but he acknowledged the possibility that the talks might simply collapse.
Some progress has been made, notably over agreeing the size of Iran's capacity to enrich uranium.
The need for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be consulted on almost every aspect of a deal is partly to blame for the slow pace of negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme, diplomatic sources said yesterday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)