French Ambassador to the US, Gerard Arnaud, said: “It’s very likely that we won’t have an agreement before the end of June or even (right) after…We could have a sort of fuzzy end to the negotiation”.
Ambassador Arnaud also warned of the risks of the deal causing a potential nuclear arms race, stating that allowing Iran to maintain enough enrichment capacity for a one-year breakout time could prompt countries such as Saudi Arabia to seek a similar capability: “For me, that’s one of the major weak points of the agreement we are negotiating because let’s be frank: the agreement is not perfect”.
The remarks come after Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei last week ruled out critical international inspections of Iran’s military sites or access to nuclear scientists under any nuclear agreement, thereby undermining the verification regime of any potential deal on the country’s nuclear programme. Iran’s military leaders echoed his remarks.
Iran’s refusal to allow inspections of military sites would make a permanent nuclear deal unverifiable as it would be impossible to detect a covert attempt to ‘break out’. Iran has a history of developing secret nuclear sites on military facilities; including the previously concealed centrifuge plant at Fordow built on an IRGC military base.
Iran has also repeatedly denied IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military facility at which it is widely suspected of having conducted tests related to the high-explosive triggers for nuclear weapons. Satellite imagery shows that Iran has undertaken an extensive clean-up operation at the site in recent years – suggesting that Iran has been removing nuclear materials from the site.
A tentative agreement was reached between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China on April 2, but both sides have since indicated differences over fundamental issues including Iran’s use of advanced centrifuges, the pace of sanctions relief and provision for inspections by the IAEA.