| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Expedite deal, France warns Iran as Khamenei orders nuclear progress

France has told Iran that it only has a few days to accept a compromise on its nuclear program during negotiations in Vienna. “It’s not a matter of weeks, it’s a matter of days,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Senate, adding that if no agreement is reached, a serious crisis will erupt.

Iran’s supreme leader stated on Thursday that the country will continue to develop peaceful nuclear capabilities in order to maintain its independence.

“Peaceful nuclear energy will be required sooner or later.” In a televised statement, Iran’s highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, backed Tehran’s hard-line negotiating team in Vienna, saying, “If we do not pursue it… our independence will be endangered.”

The United States is in the “very late stages” of indirect discussions with Iran, according to US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“This is really the key period in which we’ll be able to establish if a reciprocal return to compliance with the JCPOA is in the offing, or if it isn’t,” Price told reporters, referring to the 2015 pact with world powers.

According to officials, the agreement spells out phases of mutual efforts to bring both parties back into full compliance, the first of which does not involve waivers on oil sanctions.

Many of the text’s difficulties have been resolved, according to delegates, but several thorny concerns remain.

The overall goal is to return to the original agreement of lifting sanctions on Iran, including those that have slashed its vital oil exports, in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities that would extend the time it would take to produce enough enriched uranium for an atomic bomb if it chose to do so.

Iran is now enriching uranium to up to 60% fissile purity, close to weapons grade, despite the 2015 accord capping enrichment at 3.67 percent fissile purity.

The agreement’s draft text, which is more than 20 pages long, lays out a step-by-step process to be followed after it is agreed by the remaining parties, beginning with Iran ceasing enrichment over 5% purity, according to three diplomats familiar with the matter.

Other measures mentioned in the text, according to diplomats, include the unfreezing of $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks as a result of US sanctions, as well as the release of Western prisoners held in Iran, which US lead negotiator Robert Malley has suggested is a precondition for a deal.

The main phase of sanctions-lifting would begin only after that initial wave of measures had been taken and confirmed, culminating in what many diplomats refer to as Re-Implementation Day, a nod to the original deal’s Implementation Day, when the final nuclear and sanctions-related measures were put in place.

According to diplomats, Iran will return to basic nuclear constraints, such as the 3.67 percent limit on enrichment purity.

  • Arab News