• Iran And The West Still Can’t Agree On Nuke Deal Details

    Just weeks before the deadline for a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. allies keep clashing with Iran over the basic terms of the proposed deal.

    One of those details is the deadline itself. France and Iran have both suggested that negotiations may stretch into July, despite consensus at April’s announcement of a “framework” agreement that the final deadline would be June 30.

    The last round of negotiations was also settled over the wire, with U.S. officials extending past midnight on March 31 before reaching an agreement on April 2. (RELATED: Negotiators Announce Plan For 10-Year Iranian Nuclear Restrictions)

    On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke insisted that the U.S. is “not contemplating any extension beyond June 30” and that the countries negotiating with Iran are “united in our efforts to reach a final deal by the end of June.”

    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also said in recent weeks that under a final deal, Western inspectors would not have access to Iran’s military nuclear sites. Instead, he insists that inspections would be limited to the selected few facilities mentioned by name in April’s framework agreement.

    But France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, shot back at the ayatollah Wednesday, saying that “if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites,” France would not back a final deal.

    France has been one of the most Iran-skeptical parties to the talks, which besides the U.S. and Iran include France, Russia, China, the U.K. and Germany. In his remarks Wednesday, Fabius reiterated that France would say “yes to an agreement, but not to an agreement that will enable Iran to have the atomic bomb.”

    U.S. President Barack Obama has worked strenuously to reassure allies in Israel and the Arab world that the deal, as proposed, would be the best chance to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But several regional states have already taken steps to develop their own civilian nuclear programs in recent weeks — and in some cases, rebuffed U.S. attempts to win their trust. (RELATED: What Would A Middle East Nuclear Arms Race Look Like?)

    The final talks also come at a time when Iranian influence is expanding in the region, as it sponsors the most viable Iraqi fighting force against Islamic State, as well as rebels resisting a Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.

    Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Switzerland this weekend to kick off the next round of in-person negotiations with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

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