Iran’s Zarif says nuclear deal possible if no ‘excessive demands’

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Iran’s foreign minister insisted Tuesday a nuclear deal remained possible as he arrived for a final round of talks with world powers, with differences still wide just six days before a deadline to strike an agreement.

But Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that an accord would only happen if the other side — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — refrained from making “excessive demands”.

“A deal is still possible,” Zarif was quoted by Iranian media as saying after landing at Vienna airport.

“If, because of excessive demands by the other side, we don’t get a result, then the world will understand that the Islamic Republic sought a solution, a compromise and a constructive agreement and that it will not renounce its rights and the greatness of the nation.”

The mammoth accord being sought by Monday’s deadline, after months of negotiations, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of civilian activities.

It could consign to history a 12-year standoff over Iran’s atomic programme, silence talk of war and help normalise Iran’s relations with the West after 35 years of mistrust and antagonism.

It could also boost Iran’s economy, improve the lives of ordinary Iranians and mark a rare foreign policy success for US President Barack Obama, five years after he offered Tehran an “outstretched hand”.

US and Iranian negotiations are under domestic pressure not to give too much away, however, while Israel — assumed to be the Middle East’s sole nuclear-armed power — and others in the volatile region are sceptical.