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Deadline looms for reaching deal on Iran’s nuclear program

June 30 deadline expected to be extended over Tehran’s demand to remove sanctions first

Another deadline is approaching this week for finding an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. But with reports of Tehran making demands on major points of the deal, another extension on the talks is also highly likely. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stated that his country will only sign a deal if international sanctions are lifted first.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left the talks in Vienna on Sunday, saying he was going back to Tehran for consultations with Iranian leaders. He’s expected to return early Tuesday morning, the day of the actual deadline.

The U.S. and Iran reached a preliminary agreement in April. It was a comprehensive plan to limit Tehran’s nuclear program over the next 15 years, but it left out several significant issues meant to be addressed in this current round of talks. Some of those issues include the nature of inspections and the speed at which Iran could expand its nuclear infrastructure.

Talks on the issue took a new turn in 2013 when newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed to curb parts of Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions. It was a thaw in relations between the U.S. and Iran after decades of hostilities. Now P5+1 members, consisting of China, France, Russia, Britain, the United States, plus Germany, have come together to negotiate a final agreement.

During Al Jazeera America’s Sunday night segment "The Week Ahead," Del Walters spoke to Emad Kiyaei, Executive Director at the American Iranian Council, and to Olli Heinonen, a Senior Fellow at Harvard University, who joined the discussion from Boston.

“Iran faces a very important decision,” says Heinonen. “Some of them are more technical in nature, and some of them are more of a policy nature. They have to agree to the final parameters of the enrichment program, particularly on Research and Development (R&D).”

Kiyaei says the United States is the most powerful player within the P5+1 group. “We know these negotiations started in 2003 and failed in 2005, because the European Union powers then could not get a green light from Washington. America’s involvement in these P5+1 talks are very paramount.”

He adds that bilateral relations between the U.S. and Iran have been marred for so many years and play into these negotiations because there’s a great deal of mistrust on both sides.

Some analysts say that the longer it takes to come complete a deal, the worse it is for Iran. Heinonen disagrees, however, saying that it may cause some additional complications, but that he’s still optimistic.

Khamenei’s statement on the removal of sanctions before a deal can be reached is part of what he’s referred to as seven “major red lines” in the talks. Among them is a call for no long-term restrictions, no requirement of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verification as a precondition for other steps in the deal, and no inspections of Iran’s military sites.

Elaborating on his previous statements of rocky relations between the U.S. and Iran, Kiyaei says that, “every time there’s been a promise from Western world powers, for example sanctions relief or removal, we’ve seen that they’ve backtracked on that. So Ayatollah Khamenei is trying to make sure that Iran’s national interests are kept in mind, and that the Iranians are guaranteed sanctions relief will occur.”

Kiyaei adds that, “as we’ve seen throughout these negotiations, Iran has kept its end of the bargain, and has made major concessions, but the same from world powers is yet to be seen. The ‘red lines’ are being put in place not only to give Iran more power in the negotiations, but also to indicate that Iran is serious about its own end of the commitment, as long as the world powers reciprocate.”

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