‘N-deal possible by 20 July’

President Hassan Rouhani urged world powers on Saturday to cut a deal with Iran by a July 20 deadline to end a dispute over its nuclear programme, arguing that in any case sanctions meant to restrict its atomic activity have frayed beyond repair. 

He told a news conference in Tehran the economic curbs had been softened by his government’s policy of detente, replacing one of confrontation with the West, and ‘will not be rebuilt’ even if the Islamic Republic and the six big powers fail to reach a final agreement by July 20. ‘The disputes can be resolved with goodwill and flexibility ... I believe that the July 20 deadline can be met despite remaining disputes. If not, we can continue the talks for a month or more,’ he said. 

‘During the nuclear negotiations we have displayed our strong commitment to diplomacy,’ Rouhani went on, in comments broadcast live on state television. ‘(But even) if a deal can’t be reached by July 20, conditions will never be like the past. The sanctions regime has been broken.’ 

Iran and the powers will hold another round of talks in Vienna on June 16-20 to tackle a deadlock which has raised the likelihood that the deadline will lapse without a deal meant to head off the risk of a Middle East war over the nuclear issue. 

An outright failure of the faltering talks would strengthen the position of conservative hardliners in Iran’s clerical establishment against Rouhani, who has endeavoured to improve relations with the United States. The countries severed ties during a hostage crisis after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. ‘The West should use this opportunity to reach a final deal in the remaining weeks. American hawks and Israel will be blamed for (any) failure of the talks,’ Rouhani said. 

Iran says it needs to maintain a domestic uranium enrichment capability to produce fuel for a planned network of nuclear power plants without having to rely on foreign suppliers. 

Wary Western officials believe Iran will need many years to build any nuclear power station and that its underlying goal in enriching uranium is to be able to yield material for nuclear bombs at short notice, an allegation the Islamic state denies. 

Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China set the July 20 deadline to reach a comprehensive agreement in an interim deal they reached in Geneva on Nov. 24. 

The November pact, which Iran suspended some sensitive nuclear activities in return for limited relief from sanctions, allowed a six-month extension if more time were needed for a final deal. The preliminary accord went into effect on Jan 20. It is increasingly improbable that six world powers and Iran will meet the deadline, officials and analysts say. 

In another sign of Iranian determination, a top aide to clerical supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would never renounce its peaceful nuclear rights under pressure. ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran will never be influenced by pressure exerted by others who seek to deprive Iran of its nuclear rights and will never back down from its rights,’ Ali Akbar Velayati said.
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