Western powers are offering Tehran high-tech reactors under a proposed nuclear agreement, a confidential document says, but a defiant speech by Iran’s supreme leader less than a week before a negotiating deadline casts doubt on whether he’s willing to make the necessary concessions to seal a deal.
The talks, which resumed Wednesday in Vienna on restraining any Iranian efforts to make atomic arms, appeared to be behind schedule, judging by the draft document obtained by The Associated Press.
The draft, one of several technical appendices meant to accompany the main body of any deal, has bracketed text in dozens of places where disagreements remain.
Technical cooperation is the least controversial issue at the talks, and the number of brackets suggest the sides have a ways to go – not only on that topic, but also on more contentious disputes — before the June 30 deadline for a deal.
Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Tuesday rejected a long-term freeze on nuclear research and supported the idea of barring international inspectors from military sites. Khamenei, in comments broadcast on Iranian state media, also said Iran would sign a final deal only if all economic sanctions on the country were first lifted. The preliminary deal calls for sanctions to be lifted gradually after an agreement is finalized.
Graham Allison, who directs Harvard’s Belfer Center think tank, told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Khamenei’s ban on visits to military facilities would be “a show-stopper” for a deal.
The West has held out the prospect of providing Iran peaceful nuclear technology in the nearly decade-long effort to reduce Tehran’s ability to make nuclear weapons. But the scope of the help now being offered in the draft displeases U.S. congressional critics who say Washington is giving away too much.
“These continued concessions only emboldened Iran’s leaders to press for more,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “The way these negotiations are moving, it is increasingly difficult to see the administration striking a meaningful, lasting agreement that would be acceptable to Congress.”