France Warns Iran Over Nuclear Deal as Deadline Nears

ANKARA/PARIS (Reuters) -
In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader on Wednesday, May 20, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei listens to Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari during a graduation ceremony of a group of the guard’s officers in Tehran, Iran. Iran’s supreme leader vowed he will not allow international inspection of Iran’s military sites or access to Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement with world powers. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader on Wednesday, May 20, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei listens to Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari during a graduation ceremony of a group of the guard’s officers in Tehran, Iran. Iran’s supreme leader vowed he will not allow international inspection of Iran’s military sites or access to Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement with world powers. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

France warned on Wednesday it was ready to block a final deal between Iran and the six major powers on Iran’s nuclear program unless Tehran provided inspectors access to all installations, including military sites.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week ruled out international inspection of Iran’s military sites or access to nuclear scientists under any agreement. Iran’s military leaders echoed his remarks.

“France will not accept [a deal] if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers in Paris.

As talks resumed in Vienna on Wednesday to bridge gaps in negotiating positions before a June 30 deadline, the United States said it was not considering an extension, despite comments from France and Iran indicating wiggle room.

“We’re not contemplating any extension beyond June 30,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said at a Washington news briefing.

Rathke said the United States believes the world powers working with Tehran can achieve their goal of reaching an agreement by the self-imposed deadline. To that end, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva for a May 30 meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif.

Iran’s state media quoted senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi as saying the deadline could be extended, echoing comments by France’s ambassador to the United States. Gerard Araud said on Tuesday that a deal was not likely by June 30 because technical details would still need to be resolved.

France is considered to be demanding more stringent restrictions on the Iranians under any deal than the other Western delegations, officials said, although U.S. officials have cautioned that France’s position privately is not as tough as it is publicly.

Pace Slows

A tentative agreement was reached between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China on April 2, but several issues remain unresolved.

Among them are the pace of easing Western sanctions imposed over the Iranian program and the monitoring and verification measures to ensure Iran could not pursue a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Iran denies any ambition to develop nuclear weapons and says its program is purely peaceful.

“The talks are serious, complicated and detailed. The pace of talks is slow as we have entered final stages,” Araqchi said upon his arrival in Vienna, state media reported.

Speaking a day after meeting the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Paris, Fabius also appeared to suggest differences with other members of the P5+1, saying he hoped all of them would adopt France’s position.

“‘Yes’ to an agreement, but not to an agreement that will enable Iran to have the atomic bomb. That is the position of France, which is independent and peaceful,” he said.