Iran Nuclear Talks Intensify Amid March Deadline

Sanctions are now the central issue in the negotiations.

The nuclear negotiations with Iran intensified Sunday, as the deadline to achieve an agreement by the end of March increased the prospects of over 18 months of talks.

The six countries — China, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and the U.S. — and Iran are negotiating in Lausanne, Switzerland, in a bid to reach a final agreement.

Despite the fact that the initial deadline for the deal expired last Thursday, the countries have doubled their efforts to meet a new deadline set for Tuesday.

Earlier reports suggested that Iran and the six negotiating countries had reached a preliminary agreement Thursday. However, the United States said the deal has a 50 percent chance of happening.

The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, claimed earlier this month that agreements had been reached for about 90 percent of the issues, but one major theme was blocking the progress of the agreement.

Several officials told Reuters that Tehran had indicated a willingness to cut the number of centrifuges it uses from 10,000 to fewer than 6,000, thereby slowing its program, and to send most of its enriched uranium stockpiles for storage in Russia.

The talks slowed down after the countries discussed current United Nations sanctions against Iran, which has been the biggest obstacle according to negotiators.

Many analysts believe that individual Western sanctions are also part of the issues affecting the negotiations. Sanctions have affected Iran’s economy significantly.

According to Bloomberg news, as consequence of years of sanctions, Iran now holds an oil barrel stock that ranges from 7 million to 35 million, an amount that if sold after lifting sanctions would give Tehran an undisputable weight in the global oil market.

As talks intensify, U.S. Republican lawmakers have raised their objections to a potential agreement and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went as far as saying the current successes in the nuclear talks are worse than he imagined.

“This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday.

The current negotiations are the closest the West has come to ending a 12-year diplomatic conflict regarding Iran’s nuclear energy program.