DUBAI: Iran believes it can wrap up talks with world powers over its disputed nuclear program in one year or less, Iranian media quoted its chief nuclear negotiator as saying.
At talks last week, the first since moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June, Tehran offered a three-phase plan it said could yield a breakthrough in the standoff after years of diplomatic paralysis and increasing confrontation.
“If we see the same seriousness in future negotiations which we saw in the [Oct. 15-16] Geneva negotiations, we believe that within six months to one year we can conclude the negotiations,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in an interview with the state-owned, Arabic-language Al-Alam television channel.
“Perhaps within three months or six months we can reach a conclusion regarding the first step,” he said, in remarks that were published Monday by ISNA news agency.
The United States and its European allies suspect Iran is working toward a nuclear weapons capability, and have levied sanctions on Iran’s energy, banking and shipping sectors that have battered the Iranian economy and caused a currency crisis.
Iran denies it is after nuclear weapons, saying its uranium enrichment program is purely for peaceful energy purposes.
The six world powers dealing with Iran’s nuclear issue are the five permanent Security Council members – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – plus Germany.
Washington described last week’s negotiations as the most serious and candid to date, and the parties have agreed to meet again in Geneva on Nov. 7-8. Nuclear and sanctions experts from both sides are to meet before the next main round of talks.
But all sides have stressed wide differences must still be overcome to nail down a deal.
“Certainly there are serious differences between us and the other side,” Araqchi said, according to ISNA. “We even have deep disagreements with each other. Despite this, we are hopeful we can achieve a common resolution to this dispute.”
Araqchi reiterated that Iran would not stop refining uranium, saying domestic enrichment was a right of the Iranian people – but that the extent of enrichment was negotiable.