Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister has warned that Tehran is unlikely to agree to an extension of the November 24 deadline for a deal with international powers over the country’s nuclear program.
“If it would be a deal, let’s do it now, an extension would be useless and difficult,” the Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araqi, said in an interview with Japan’s Kyodo News Agency.
The most recent talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – held in New York last week ended in a stalemate. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared at a press conference that “there were no significant advances” during the talks, while an anxious senior American official told the Wall Street Journal “we have about eight more weeks [before the deadline]…That’s not a staggering amount of time.”
Western powers had intended to reach a final agreement by July of this year, in accordance with the timetable set by the interim agreement reached in Geneva in November 2013. The significant differences between the two sides led to an extension of the deadline to November 24 this year.
The current divide centers upon Iran’s activities in enriching uranium. Iran has hinted that it might slightly reduce its uranium enrichment program, but the sharp reduction which the United States and the Europeans are seeking has been resisted by Tehran.
Iran currently has 19,000 of the centrifuge machines needed for enrichment, of which just over half are operational. While the Iranians want to increase the number of centrifuges at their disposal, the United States has pressed for a significant reduction to just 1,500. The Obama Administration accepts Iran’s claim that it has a legitimate right to enrich uranium, but is wary of any further capacity that might enable the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon.
Another obstacle concerns the timing of sanctions relief for Iran. Tehran’s impatience with international sanctions has been growing, with officials pressing for guarantees that the successive UN Security Council resolutions authorizing sanctions will be lifted quickly.
Araqi’s implicit threat that a final deal may not be agreed if the November deadline passes was scorned by campaigners opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “It’s time to come down like a ton of bricks on this regime,” Gabriel Pedreira, communications director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI,) told The Algemeiner. “We want an economic blockade if real change doesn’t come about. We haven’t seen a single concession from the Iranians, nor has even one centrifuge been destroyed.”
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Monday afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of trying to “bamboozle” the international community over its centrifuges. “Imagine how much more dangerous Iran would be if it possessed nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu asserted. “Once Iran produces nuclear weapons, all the smiles and all the charm will disappear.”