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The US and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) has been in difficult negotiations with Iran since November 2014 to curb its uranium enrichment program in return for a lifting of biting economic sanctions.
The talks, which appeared promising last week, appeared to tumble on Sunday when news reports emerged that Iran had reneged on a central promise to send fissile material (that could be used to develop a bomb) to Russia.
But other significant hurdles remain – two, in particular, which are at the core of the talks.
Iran wants a list of which sanctions will be lifted and a timetable for how soon. It also wants a commitment that sanctions will be lifted permanently if it fulfills its promises, and not be reinforced if there is a failure to comply.
Tehran is also pressing for a compromise on how much nuclear research it could conduct.
Western powers, however, want a full commitment that Iran will distance itself for “at least a year” (up to a decade) from producing enough fissile material to produce a bomb.
Iranian and US officials have tried to sound an optimistic tone throughout.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi believes that “getting to an accord is doable. Solutions have been found for numerous questions”.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that negotiations are progressing on the premise that a deal will be reached.
The P5+1 and Iran have already missed a November 2014 deadline to reach an agreement. During their meetings in Vienna, Austria last November, the delegations agreed to extend the deadline to March 31.
Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have been meeting since March 15 ahead of a deadline to reach a deal by the end of the month. If Iran, the US and the remaining members of the P5+1 fail to reach a deal by then, there is a possibility talks may be delayed for a year.
Zarif has repeatedly said he is concerned that Western powers may be overreaching with excessive demands, which are impeding the chance of reaching a compromise
But Democrats, such as National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, fear a Republican backlash in Washington that could derail the Obama administration’s entire Iran track if an accord is not reached tomorrow.
The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies