Iran, the United States and the five other countries negotiating over the future of the Iranian nuclear program have agreed to a four-month extension of the negotiations, giving them more time to try to bridge a major difference over whether the country will be forced to dismantle parts of its nuclear infrastructure, according to senior Western diplomats involved in the talks.
The original deadline for an accord was July 20, though a temporary agreement that has been in effect since November envisioned a possible extension. In an interview this week Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, described a plan that would essentially freeze Iran’s operations at current levels for three to seven years, allowing it to continue limited production. But after that period the country would be free, under the Iranian plan, to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wants.
The United States and its negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have argued that Iran must dismantle major elements of its uranium enrichment program, and they envision the restrictions going on for a decade or more. It is unclear whether, in four months, the two sides can bridge that gap, though there have been some innovative proposals discussed that could significantly lengthen the time Iran would need to make bomb-grade material.
It was not clear how the extension would affect existing sanctions on Iran, though an announcement of the details was expected soon in Vienna.