Zarif: Iran, world powers have 'chance to make history'
TEHRAN - Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday his country and world powers have a "unique opportunity to make history" by agreeing on a nuclear deal, as talks enter a crucial final round.
Mohammad Javad Zarif was speaking as the five permanent members of the United Nations, plus Germany, prepare to sit down with Iran in Vienna Thursday in a bid to reach a historic deal by a July 20 deadline.
The world powers want Iran to scale down its nuclear activities in order to ease long-held fears that Tehran might develop atomic weapons.
Iran, subject to damaging UN and Western sanctions, insists its nuclear programme is purely peaceful and even wants to expand key parts of it.
Speaking a video uploaded on YouTube, Zarif said forging a deal would "end an unnecessary crisis that has distracted us from addressing together our common challenges, such as the horrifying events of past few weeks in Iraq."
He claimed an agreement could have been reached in 2005 when he had been nuclear negotiator, but that the administration of then US president George W. Bush "torpedoed the deal".
They then opted for pressure and sanctions. For eight years."
But he said sanctions "didn't bring the Iranian people to kneel in submission. And it will not now nor in the future."
"We are trying to reach a deal," he added. "Not a good deal or a bad deal, but a doable and lasting deal."
A sixth round of talks starts officially on Thursday. It could potentially last until July 20 when an interim deal from November expires, although this could be extended by up to six months.
Without elaborating, Zarif said "we are willing to take concrete measures to guarantee that our nuclear programme will always remain peaceful.
"We still have time to put an end to the myth that Iran is seeking to build a bomb."
Western powers and Israel have long suspected Iran of using its civil nuclear energy programme as a cover for developing weapons capability, which Tehran has consistently denied.