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Zarif: Full agreement on nuclear program could be reached in six months - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif answers a question during a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt (unseen) in Tehran on February 4, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif answers a question during a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt (unseen) in Tehran on February 4, 2014. (AFP Photo/Behrouz Mehri)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said full agreement could be reached between Iran and world powers over the country’s controversial nuclear program provided the other side was willing to negotiate in good faith, as delegates began to arrive at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna for a new round of talks on Tuesday.

In an interview broadcast by Iranian television on Saturday, Zarif said: “The negotiations will be difficult and intense, but by working together we will try to achieve a common goal. The continuation of the Iranian nuclear program depends on building confidence and giving the other side necessary assurances over the peaceful nature of the program. I don’t think this is a difficult task, because it is the Islamic Republic’s goal for these negotiations.”

Zarif continued: “The talks will begin on Tuesday morning in Vienna and it has been decided they will end by setting lines to reach a full agreement that will take six months in the first phase, in accordance with the Geneva nuclear agreement.”

He added: “The talks will also include other topics such as the inadequate measures and unhelpful statements that have been released.”

Zarif’s comments allude to statements released by US officials in recent weeks that said all options against Iran remained on the table and that there was US support for imposing further sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

A few weeks ago US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US would immediately resort to the military option against Iran if it did not keep the pledges stipulated by the Geneva agreement.

Last Thursday US President Barack Obama said during a meeting with French President François Hollande at the White House that he was insisting on the application of current sanctions against Iran. He added: “We have to send a message to the Iranians that we will impose further sanctions so long as the nuclear situation is not solved.”

Zarif responded to Obama’s comments saying: “I don’t see anything new here; the US has always made these useless statements.”

Regarding the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—Dr. Ali Bigdeli, an international law professor at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, said in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat: “Some members of the P5+1 have released some frustrating statements in the past few days and even in the days following the last nuclear agreement in Geneva. These statements will have a negative effect on the course of the negotiations.”

He added: “Looking at the course of negotiations, there is no going back on the deal agreed in Geneva.” He continued: “The current situation does not allow the P5+1 countries to take measures not stipulated in the Geneva agreement. Given the financial crisis they are going through, I don’t think the P5+1 are likely to act as stumbling blocks on the road to a full agreement on the nuclear program.”

Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said three weeks ago: “Everything will become clear during the forthcoming round of nuclear negotiations, and the timeframe with which Iran will have to comply over the nuclear deal will be set out.”

Hamid Baeedi Nejad, director general for political and international affairs at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told the state-run IRNA news agency on Sunday: “The factors that need to be discussed in the full agreement on the nuclear program are Iran’s use of new and advanced types of centrifuges. We will not accept Iran not being allowed to exchange its current centrifuges for more advanced equipment.”

Zarif will meet EU negotiator Catherine Ashton on Tuesday evening for a working dinner at the Iranian team’s base.

On the subject of the make-up of the Iranian negotiating team, Araqchi said Masoud Rahimian, a director at the International Atomic Energy Agency, would be included, but that there would be no other changes.

There have been no statements about making adjustments to the composition of the Iranian negotiating team with the P5+1.