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Iran nuclear talks to go beyond 30 June deadline: Iran

A crucial week of nuclear negotiations with Western powers lies ahead
An Iranian stacks special sweets called 'zulbia' in a pastry shop in Tehran. Ordinary Iranians are struggling under international sanctions (AFP)

Talks between Iran and major powers on finalising a historic nuclear deal will go beyond the 30 June deadline, a spokesman for the Iranian delegation in talks in Vienna said on Sunday.

"Because there is still lots of work to do the delegations will remain beyond Tir 10 (1 July) to continue the negotiations and reach a good overall deal," the spokesman said.

"At the same time there is no desire or discussion yet on a long-term extension," he said.

Officials have said that the deadline may be missed by a few days but until now no officials have confirmed that it will.

The talks between Iran and the P5+1 - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - are aimed at finalising a framework deal struck in April.

According to that agreement, Iran will sharply reduce its nuclear programme in scale and submit to tighter UN inspections in order to make any drive to make an atomic bomb virtually impossible.

In return Iran, which denies seeking the bomb, will see painful sanctions lifted. Tough remaining issues include the timing and pace of the sanctions relief and UN access to Iranian military bases.

Zarif leaves Vienna

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will leave nuclear talks in Vienna and return to Tehran on Sunday, state media reported, saying the trip was pre-planned.

"Iran and the US foreign ministers have given their teams necessary guidelines regarding how to proceed with the text and its details," reports said, quoting a media official from Iran's negotiating team.

Iran's IRNA and ISNA news agencies said that "after a one-day stay in Tehran," Zarif would return to Vienna but "in case more time is needed to work on the text of the agreement negotiations can continue after the June 30 deadline".

Sticking points

The broad outlines of an unprecedented deal between Iran and global powers to put a nuclear bomb out of Tehran's reach are known. But the devil is in the details.

Iran's main purpose in coming to the negotiating table is to win a lifting of a complex web of economic and trade sanctions which have been gradually tightened over the past decade.

The sanctions have choked the Iranian economy, frozen more than $100 billion in oil revenues in bank accounts around the world, and barred the country from lucrative oil markets.

Tehran wants to see the immediate lifting of all EU, UN and US sanctions as soon as a deal is reached.

But the P5+1 powers leading the talks - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - are insisting sanctions should only be lifted progressively as Iran takes steps to reduce the capabilities of its suspect nuclear programme.

Military sites

Iranian leaders have repeated many times in the past weeks that they are opposed to inspections of sensitive military sites by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), insisting that it is a question of national sovereignty.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made such inspections one of his "red lines" and refused interviews with Iranian scientists, and access to documentation.

The IAEA however is seeking to end a long standoff over suspected past development of nuclear weapons - what is referred to as the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of the Iranian programme.

Length of deal

Global powers want to curtail the Iranian nuclear programme for at least 10 years, and some parts of it for longer.

"Unlike the insistence from the Americans, we do not accept long-term limitations of 10, 12 years, and we told them how many years (of) limitations we are ready to accept," Khamenei, who has the final word for Iran on the deal, said last week.

The Lausanne framework accord agreed on 2April says that Iran will limit its uranium enrichment programme for 10 years.

Khamenei is also insisting that Iran be allowed to continue nuclear research and development during the period.

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