Rouhani hopeful of nuclear deal by July 20

Iran is serious in seeking a comprehensive nuclear deal with world powers despite lingering differences, President Hassan Rouhani says, insisting negotiations could succeed before a July 20 deadline expires.

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But he adds that should Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany not strike a deal next month, the process will continue until all differences are resolved.

“We are serious in the negotiations, and it will be in the interest of everyone if a deal is signed in the next five weeks,” the Iranian president told a press conference in Tehran on Saturday.

“But there are differences, and in some issues the gaps are substantial,” he said.

The P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany) talks with Iran resume in Vienna on Monday with the aim of transforming an interim deal into a lasting accord.

The West wants to ensure Iran’s nuclear activities are purely peaceful. In return, Iran wants the removal of international sanctions that have choked its economy.

Details of the negotiations have been scant but according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Iran wants to operate thousands of centrifuges, machines used to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear plants but which could also provide fissile material for an atomic bomb.

The P5+1 wants Iran to drastically reduce its uranium production capacity, and keep only a few hundred centrifuges active.

“If there is no deal (before July 20), then we will continue the talks … until we reach an agreement,” Rouhani said, while suggesting work on a draft agreement could begin in Vienna.