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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif wait for the start of closed door negotiations in Vienna, Austria, on July 3, 2014.

Iran Talks Come Up Empty as Deadline Nears

Envoys achieved few strides on Iran’s disputed nuclear program ahead of a stopgap deal’s expiration in less than two weeks, the Associated Press reports.

After five days of discussions in Vienna, Iran remains unwilling to accept all of the atomic restrictions demanded by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, diplomatic insiders said on Monday. Washington and its allies believe Iran’s ostensibly peaceful nuclear efforts are geared toward weapons development, and Tehran has tentatively offered to rein in some of the activities in exchange for an end to economic sanctions.

The sides reportedly remain most significantly divided on an acceptable size for Iran’s uranium-enrichment program under a potential long-term agreement. Iran has sought a robust refinement capacity with the stated aim of producing nuclear power plant fuel, while other governments have pressed for tighter limits on the technology capable of generating nuclear-arms material.

Israel, a regional antagonist of Iran, does not expect diplomats to conclude an agreement before the interim nuclear accord expires this month, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Friday.

My estimate is that there will not be [a deal by July 20]. I think the Iranians came with a very hard line,” Reuters quoted Steinitz as saying. “The Iranians came without willingness to compromise but with a desire to exploit this stage to soften and improve the opening positions of the other side.”

Experts have warned that renewing the six-month pact now in force may lead to political complications.

Addressing how Israel would react to a long-term agreement it found unacceptable, Steinitz said, “We are keeping all options open.”

We will have to see what the deal is, to what extent it is good, to what extent it is bad, if it meets the minimum demands or not,” he added.

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