US: ‘Significant’ issues remain in Iran nuke talks

Iran must still resolve “significant” concerns over its nuclear program before any deal can be struck, a senior administration official said Thursday, as talks neared a self-imposed July 20 deadline.

Diplomats have a little over two weeks to reach an accord to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting crippling international economic sanctions.

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Iranian negotiators have shown “tremendous seriousness” about finding a resolution, yet “significant discrepancies” remain between Tehran’s claims and its history of violating nonproliferation norms, the senior official told reporters on a conference call.

“Ultimately it is Iran’s decision to give assurance to match what they say about the peaceful nature of their nuclear program,” the official added.

Negotiators from the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, France, China and Iran arrived in Vienna yesterday to begin the latest round of talks.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, but the international community says Tehran is covertly building nuclear weapons.

The official said a final deal would see Tehran’s future uranium enrichment capacity kept at “a fraction of what they currently have.”

The official also brushed back against Iranian complaints that Washington was setting a “maximalist” stance in negotiations.

“We are putting down very reasonable positions,” the official insisted.

The comments come as Secretary of State John Kerry warned earlier this week in an op-ed that time to reach a diplomatic solution was running out.

The official said diplomats are focused on getting an agreement before the deadline, but added that “everybody understands” if a few extra days are needed.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the official said.