Iran and six world powers are seeking a landmark deal by November 24 that would see Iran scale back its nuclear activities in order to ease long-held fears it might develop atomic weapons, in return for a lifting of international sanctions.
“A nuclear deal is in the interest of both parties and the region,” deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said in an interview with Iranian television the day before talks between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group of nations resume in Oman ahead of a final deadline this month.
“No one wants to return to the situation there was before the Geneva accord, as that would be a dangerous scenario for the entire world,” he said, referring to an interim agreement Iran signed last year that traded curbs on its nuclear programme for limited sanctions relief.
The West wants to close all avenues to Tehran developing an atomic bomb, by cutting back its nuclear enrichment programme, shutting down suspect facilities and imposing tough international inspections.
Iran denies it wants nuclear weapons but insists on having “industrial-level enrichment” for its civilian energy programme. It wants all sanctions lifted and no restrictions on its existing nuclear technology.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Sunday and Monday with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Oman along with EU former head of diplomacy Catherine Ashton in an attempt to bring the two sides closer together.
“Negotiations have almost stopped on one or two issues and we hope that talks in Oman will allow us to make progress” on a final deal, Araghchi said.
He added that “the level, capacity and the size of enrichment and the time needed to be able to have industrial enrichment are subjects of negotiations”.
According to a diplomatic source in Tehran, new proposals from the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany) could allow Iran to “quickly” seal a deal that would see sanctions lifted in exchange for reassurances that Tehran was not seeking a nuclear bomb.
“The Islamic republic would never look to make an atomic weapon,” Araghchi said. “But we understand that the other side will need assurances.”
Sahar Batool, who was from the minority Hazara group, was found dead last week in Quetta, capital of the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Hazaras are mostly Shiite Muslims and have borne the brunt of the wave of sectarian violence that has swept Baluchistan in recent years.
Around 500 protesters gathered outside the office of Baluchistan’s police chief and staged a sit-in for around an hour, demanding the immediate arrests of the girl’s killers.
The protesters, including women and children, shouted slogans denouncing the killing of Hazaras in suicide and bomb attacks as well as individual assaults.
The little girl’s body bore bruises and she had been strangled with a rope, according to police officials and her family. -AFP