Kerry says Iran deal near but warns against Tehran backsliding

July 06, 2015 08:54
John Kerry announces progress in nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna. However, he is tamping down expectations, saying critical issues remain. Photo: Reuters

US State Secretary John Kerry is warning about "important sticking points" even as a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran appears to be falling into place.

If Iran refuses to cooperate on the outstanding issues, the United States could away from the talks between Tehran and six world powers over its nuclear program.

Reuters is citing senior US and Iranian officials as saying advances have been made on two of the thorniest issues -- the pace of sanctions relief for Iran and a United Nations investigation into charges that Tehran has secretly developed nuclear weapons technologies in recent decades.

On Sunday, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said a final agreement, which has taken more than a decade of diplomacy, was “very close”.

However Kerry played down expectations, saying "we are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues.”

The outstanding issues relate to Tehran's refusal to allow UN inspectors to interview its top scientists.

Also, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly demanded most economic and financial sanctions on Tehran be immediately lifted at the time of an agreement.

But Iranian negotiators in the past few days have committed to a phased approach, where sanctions will be lifted as Iran takes specific steps to roll back its nuclear program.

That includes disconnecting centrifuge machines which enrich uranium -- a process that can be used to produce fuel for both nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

Other steps are drastically reducing the country’s stockpile of enriched uranium and reconverting its heavy water reactor in the city of Arak so it produces less weapons-usable plutonium.

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