ANKARA/PARIS (Reuters) - France warned on Wednesday it was ready to block a final deal between Iran and the six major powers on Iran’s nuclear program unless Tehran provided inspectors access to all installations, including military sites.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week ruled out international inspection of Iran’s military sites or access to nuclear scientists under any agreement. Iran’s military leaders echoed his remarks.
“France will not accept (a deal) if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers in Paris.
As talks resumed in Vienna on Wednesday to bridge gaps in negotiating positions before a June 30 deadline, the United States said it was not considering an extension, despite comments from France and Iran indicating wiggle room.
“We’re not contemplating any extension beyond June 30,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington, saying the United States believed it was possible to meet the self-imposed deadline.
To that end, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, in Geneva on May 30. The lead U.S. negotiator, Wendy Sherman, flew to Vienna on Wednesday for nuclear talks among Iran and the major powers and will join Kerry in Geneva before resuming talks in the Austrian capital.
Iran’s state TV quoted senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi as saying the deadline could be extended, echoing comments by France’s ambassador to the United States. Gerard Araud said on Tuesday that a deal was not likely by June 30 because technical details would still need to be resolved.
“The deadline might be extended and the talks might continue after the June 30 (deadline),” Araqchi said. “We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands.”
France is considered to be demanding more stringent restrictions on the Iranians under any deal than the other Western delegations, officials said, although U.S. officials have cautioned that France’s position privately is not as tough as it is publicly.
A tentative agreement was reached between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China on April 2, but several issues remain unresolved.
Among them are the pace of easing Western sanctions imposed over the Iranian program and the monitoring and verification measures to ensure Iran could not pursue a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Iran denies any ambition to develop nuclear weapons and says its program is purely peaceful.
“The talks are serious, complicated and detailed. The pace of talks is slow as we have entered final stages,” Araqchi said upon his arrival in Vienna, state TV reported.
Speaking a day after meeting the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Paris, Fabius also appeared to suggest differences with other members of the P5+1, saying he hoped all of them would adopt France’s position.
“‘Yes’ to an agreement, but not to an agreement that will enable Iran to have the atomic bomb. That is the position of France, which is independent and peaceful,” he said.
Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Parisa Hafezi and John Irish; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Jonathan Oatis