Tehran: Iran hopes to start drafting a nuclear agreement with world powers Wednesday but accepts tough negotiations lie ahead on a raft of issues, one of its top negotiators said.
Abbas Araqchi said Iran still hoped its differences with the six powers can be settled by a July 20 target date for a comprehensive deal, but that it "won`t be a catastrophe" if the negotiations have to be extended for another six months.
The main sticking points are the timetable for a full lifting of crippling US and EU sanctions, and the scale to which Iran would be allowed to continue uranium enrichment, he told Iran`s official IRNA news agency.
We hope to start work on Wednesday on drafting the text of a final agreement, not the big issues but the general framework and the introduction," Araqchi said.
"There is a still a long way to go before we reach an agreement acceptable to all sides."
Iran and the six powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- opened a new round of talks in Vienna on Monday in the search for a deal by the July 20 deadline set by an interim agreement.
"We hope to reach an agreement between now and July 20," Araqchi said.
"But if we don`t, it won`t be a catastrophe," he added, referring to a clause in the interim agreement struck in November that allows for the talks to be extended.
Uranium enrichment is the sensitive process at the centre of Western concerns about Iran`s nuclear ambitions.
It can produce both fuel for nuclear power stations and, in highly extended form, the core of an atomic bomb.