WASHINGTON An Iran nuclear deal is not likely by June 30 because technical details will remain to defined and Iran will not get sanctions relief before the end of the year in the best of cases, western ambassadors said on Tuesday.
Six major powers are seeking to negotiate an agreement under which Iran would limit its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Envoys to Washington from Britain, France and Germany, three of the P5+1 group that also includes China, Russia and the United States, sketched out their expectations for the end game as a self-imposed June 30 deadline approaches.
"It’s very likely that we won’t have an agreement before the end of June or even (right) after," French ambassador Gerard Araud said in an appearance at the Atlantic Council think tank.
The Iranians want to force the six powers' ministers to decide the issues, rather than lower-level officials, Araud said, saying he expected some melodrama toward the end with late nights and doors slammed as both sides jockey for a deal.
"Even if we get the best deal ... afterwards, you will have to translate it into the technical annexes, so it may be ... we could have a sort of fuzzy end to the negotiation," he said.
Speaking after the event, Araud said it could take a few weeks of July to complete the technical annexes envisaged under an agreement, if one can be reached.
Iran and the P5+1 reached a framework agreement on April 2, but several issues remain unresolved, including the pace of sanctions relief and the monitoring and verification measures to ensure Iran does not pursue a clandestine nuclear program.
Iranian officials say they must receive sanctions relief immediately upon reaching an agreement. Western officials argue that sanctions will be eased gradually and only after Iran has taken steps to limit its nuclear program.
"Iran needs some time to start the implementation of this agreement, so in the best case sanctions relief would not happen before the end of this year," German ambassador Peter Wittig said.
Peter Westmacott, Britain's ambassador, said it would be hard to tighten sanctions if no deal is struck, particularly if the major powers are blamed for the failure.
"My sense is that we are probably not far away from the high-water mark of international sanctions against the Iranian economy," he said.
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)