VIENNA (Dispatches) – Diplomats from the remaining parties to a landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal agreed Saturday to continue negotiations and technical consultations in the next days, but Iran’s chief negotiator said "serious disagreements” remained.
Representatives from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries – Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany – met in the Austrian capital with the purpose of removing U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Expert groups of both sides have held technical talks in parallel with the negotiations.
Speaking at the end of the talks, Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said the participants reviewed reports presented by the working groups and held "good discussions” about ways to remove the sanctions.
"A new understanding appears to be emerging and there is a common ground between the parties on the ultimate goal,” Araqchi said. "But the path ahead is not an easy one and there are some serious disagreements.”
Earlier in the day, China’s envoy to the negotiations said they will continue and all remaining parts to the accord had agreed to accelerate work on issues including which sanctions the United States would lift.
Araqchi said there are some serious disagreements that need to be resolved during next negotiations.
"As I have repeatedly announced, Iran is not interested in protracted and lengthy negotiations and the talks will be continued to an extent which is necessary,” he said.
The negotiating sides, he said, can now start working on preparing a "common text” on the sectors on which they share views.
Araqchi said the Iranian delegation had presented its own texts to the P4+1 countries. "We believe that the texts we have presented can constitute the base for negotiations and a final agreement.”
Ahead of the Saturday talks, Press TV cited an informed source as saying that only the removal of all anti-Iran sanctions together will save the Vienna talks.
"It is not acceptable to Iran to divide the sanctions into removal, non-removable and negotiable,” the source said on Saturday.
"In Tehran, nothing will be accepted but the removal of all sanctions, including those related to the JCPOA, reimposed and relabeled during the Trump era,” the source added.
The source also said the recent European sanctions against Iran’s military commanders are "a gross violation” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and should be stopped.
The U.S. is not allowed to participate in the discussions, but its representatives are reportedly held abreast of the negotiations by the Europeans.
The new talks come after a "terrorist” attack earlier this week on Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Nantanz which put a number of the country’s first generation machines out of order.
Both the U.S. and the Europeans have kept silent on the attack and instead expressed concerns over Iran’s 60-percent enrichment which the country launched for the first time right after the sabotage.
In a surprise move, the European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on eight Iranians, including head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), raising the ante in hostile measures against Tehran.
Araqchi told Press TV on Thursday that the EU sanctions are meant to undermine the negotiations. "The Europeans not only ignored this important act of sabotage, but also they were busy imposing new sanctions on Iran and that was totally unacceptable,” he said in Vienna.
Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif has also said the perpetrators of the sabotage are wrong to think the act will undermine Iran’s position in Vienna negotiations.
"Incidentally, this cowardly act will strengthen our position in the negotiations,” Zarif said on Monday.
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi said on Friday Iranian scientists had produced the country’s first batch of 60-percent enriched uranium in Natanz.
He said the 60-percent enrichment was completed in two days. "Production of 60-percent enriched uranium is currently 9 grams per hour,” Salehi said, adding any level of enrichment is now possible for Iran.
The act of sabotage came a day after Iran began feeding gas to cascades of new, advanced centrifuges and unveiled 133 achievements to mark its national nuclear technology day.
Iranian officials have said while the aim of the attack was apparently to limit Iran’s nuclear capability, all the centrifuges
that went out of order due to the incident were of the IR1 type that are being replaced with more advanced ones.
Terrorist in Natanz Attack Identified
Iran named a suspect Saturday in the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility that damaged centrifuges there, saying he had fled the country "hours before” the sabotage happened.
National television named the suspect as 43-year-old Reza Karimi, saying he was born in the nearby city of Kashan, Iran. The report also aired an Interpol "red notice” seeking his arrest.
The report said "necessary actions” are underway to bring Karimi back to Iran through legal channels. The Interpol "red notice” listed his foreign travel history as including Ethiopia, Kenya, the Netherlands, Qatar, Romania, Turkey, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.
The report said there was a "limited explosion of a small part of the electricity-feeding path to the centrifuges’ hall”, adding the explosion happened because of the function of explosive materials and there was no cyberattack.
The report said there were images that corroborated the account of an explosion rather than cyberattack.
The report also showed centrifuges in a hall, as well as what caution tape up at the Natanz facility.
"The sound that you are hearing is the sound of operating machines that are fortunately undamaged,” he said, the high-pitched sound of the centrifuges heard in the background. "Many of the centrifuge chains that faced defects are now under control. Part of the work that had been disrupted will be back on track with the round-the-clock efforts of my colleagues.”