VIENNA (Reuters) – The United States yesterday rejected criticism that world powers negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran have been making too many compromises, saying it hoped to get a good deal but was not certain that was achievable.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Vienna talks would continue past today’s deadline for a comprehensive agreement intended to open the door to ending sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s most sensitive nuclear activities for at least a decade.
The West suspects Iran may be secretly developing technology that would allow it to build nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its program is for peaceful purposes only.
The US official was asked to respond to public criticism of the US delegation in the talks and suggestions that the administration of President Barack Obama had been making too many concessions out of desperation to do a deal.
“We still do not know yet whether we will be able to get there,” he said. “We want to, we hope to, but we do not know.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China of retreating from tough positions in the talks.
“We see before our very eyes a stark retreat from the red lines that the world powers set themselves only recently, and publicly,” he said. “There is no reason to hasten into signing this bad deal, which is getting worse by the day.”
The US official said the United States would not have spent endless time on negotiations just to give in at the end.
“It’s really absurd,” the official said.
“If we were going to cave, I could be home already and I would be a really happy person … we would have done that a long time ago,” the official said. “Why would we be spending the hours doing this in the way we are if, you know, we were just (going to say to Iran) ‘well whatever you want, you got’.”
Washington was holding fast to a set of parameters agreed on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland and expected Iran to do the same, the official said.
Other Western officials, including Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, have suggested Iran is backtracking on commitments that it had made in Lausanne.
The US official stressed the interim deal was the foundation for any final agreement.
“We do see a path forward to get a comprehensive agreement that meets our bottom lines and this path forward has to be based on the Lausanne parameters – period,” said the official, turning to an interpreter and asking him to repeat it in Farsi.