Iran's supreme leader has said that the US wants to destroy entirely the country's nuclear industry, state TV has reported, pointing out that international inspections of Iran's military sites are out of question.
"America is after destroying our nuclear industry altogether," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in his address on Tuesday. "Our negotiators' aim is to safeguard Iran's integrity ... and our nuclear achievements during the talks."
Our negotiators' aim is to safeguard Iran's integrity ... and our nuclear achievements during the talks.
Khamenei ruled out freezing Iran's sensitive nuclear activities for long period such as 10 or 12 years, state TV quoted him as saying. He has opposed inspections of military sites by foreigners in the past.
The supreme leader's remarks come a day after the Iranian parliament passed a bill banning access for UN inspectors to its military sites and scientists, potentially complicating chances for the deal as a self-imposed June 30 deadline approaches.
Banking and other economic sanctions imposed by the UN and the US must be lifted "immediately" if a nuclear deal is signed, he said, according to a transcript posted on his official website.
On Monday Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is expected in Vienna in the coming days with other foreign ministers, said in Luxembourg that "all sides should avoid excessive demands”.
"There is the possibility that we can finish this by the deadline or a few days after the deadline," Zarif said as he met his British, French and German counterparts, saying there was sufficient "political commitment".
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond urged "more flexibility" from Tehran, while Iran's lead negotiator Abbas Araghchi said "progress hasn't been what we expected”.
In April, Iran and the "P5+1" - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - agreed on the main outlines of the deal after marathon talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.
After two missed deadlines in July and then November last year, this built on an interim deal struck in Geneva in November 2013 after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected.
According to the Lausanne framework, Iran will downsize its nuclear activities, slashing the number of centrifuges enriching uranium, which can be used in nuclear power but also when highly purified for a bomb.
The powers hope this will ensure Iran would need at least a year - compared with a few months in 2013 - to produce a bomb's worth of material.
Tight UN inspections would give ample notice of any such "breakout”.
In return, UN and Western sanctions that have caused Iran major economic pain would be progressively lifted, although the six powers insist they can be easily "snapped back" if Tehran violates the accord.
After 12 years of rising tensions, Iran denies seeking atomic weapons, saying its programme is for peaceful purposes such as meeting, through nuclear power, the energy needs of its almost 78 million people.
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After the Lausanne breakthrough, US President Barack Obama hailed the "historic understanding" and said that if completed, the deal would "make our country, our allies and our world safer".
There were celebrations on the streets of Tehran and Rouhani promised on national television that the accord would open a "new page" in Iran's international relations.
However, two major stumbling blocks need to be resolved for the deal to reach fruition.
A particular sticking point is thought to be the issue of closer inspections by the UN atomic watchdog, potentially including military sites to probe past - and any future - suspicious activity.
"A robust agreement is one which includes an extensive verification element, including if necessary visits to military sites," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday.
Other tricky issues include how UN sanctions might be reapplied, the reduction of Iran's uranium stockpile, and its future research and development into new types of centrifuges.
Source: Reuters And AFP