Iranian Foreign Minister: 'We have never been closer' to nuclear deal

Many hurdles in the Iran nuclear talks
Many hurdles in the Iran nuclear talks

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    Many hurdles in the Iran nuclear talks

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Many hurdles in the Iran nuclear talks 02:06

Story highlights

  • A senior Iranian official said that negotiators have made progress on some of the complex technical issues the sides must address.
  • U.S. officials have repeatedly insisted that without rigorous inspections, they won't agree to a deal.

Washington (CNN)Days before the deadline for a nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivered a hopeful yet circumspect message in an English-language video message posted online.

"At this 11th hour, despite some differences that remain, we have never been closer to a lasting outcome," he said Friday. "But there is no guarantee."
Officials on both sides of the negotiating table have said they are hopeful they will be able to broker a final deal on Iran's nuclear program but have emphasized in recent days that gaps remain over items that could make or break the deal.
    Zarif indicated in the YouTube video that a deal could be in sight, but only if both sides are willing to strive for a "balanced deal."
    "Getting to yes requires the courage to compromise, the self-confidence to be flexible, the maturity to be reasonable, the wisdom to set aside illusions and the audacity to break old habits," he said.
    But then he appeared to put the onus on the West, saying his negotiating counterparts now face a "critical and historic choice: agreement or coercion?"
    Zarif posted the video on social media just hours after he and Secretary of State John Kerry met Friday and told reporters that there is still a lot of work to be done.
    Kerry pointed to "tough issues" that remain, but both also testified to a genuine effort to make progress and get to a final deal.
    "Both sides are working extremely hard with a great sense of purpose in a good-faith effort to make progress, and we are making progress," kerry said.
    But as one senior Iranian official said Thursday, the future remains unclear.
    What to know about the U.S.-Iran nuclear negotations
    What to know about the U.S.-Iran nuclear negotations

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    What to know about the U.S.-Iran nuclear negotations 01:44
    "We have red lines, they have red lines and some of those red lines can be respected by all -- some not as easy as others," he said. "I really don't know what is going to happen."
    Iran reached a preliminary agreement over its nuclear program in April after multiple rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 countries -- the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany. Now, negotiators must iron out the details and resolve contentious differences on critical issues like inspections of nuclear sites and sanctions relief.
    Iran also needs to resolve outstanding issues with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for probing and inspecting Iran's nuclear program. The agency is still trying to get Iran to hand over additional documents and information that would shed light on the past military aspects of Iran's nuclear program, which the country has insisted has always been peaceful.
    After meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Thursday, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said that he believes "both sides have a better understanding on some ways forward," but added that "more work will be needed."
    The senior Iranian official told reporters that negotiators have made progress on some of the complex technical issues the sides must address, but there are still gaps when it comes to agreeing to the rigorous inspections protocol Western officials are calling for.
    While Iran is open to giving nuclear inspectors access to additional sites, the Iranian official was clear that that doesn't mean "the doors of our military sites" will be thrown open.
    That's a key issue for the West, as well as experts watching the negotiations closely to judge whether the deal will truly prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Unless IAEA officials can probe any site in Iran -- including military sites -- for nuclear activity, many observers worry that Iran could sneak its way to a nuclear bomb.
    U.S. officials have repeatedly insisted that without rigorous inspections, they won't agree to a deal -- and President Barack Obama has pledged to walk away from a "bad deal."
    The Obama administration is hoping, though, that both sides can seal a deal before July 9 -- a deadline that triggers a congressional review period and that will likely ignite a fierce public debate over the merits of an eventual agreement. If negotiators can't reach a deal by the 9, that review period becomes 60 instead of 30 days, drawing out what could be a nasty fight over public opinion.
    The deadline isn't as much of a concern for Iran, though, the country's senior official said Thursday.
    "For us July 7, 8, 9 does not make much of a difference. At the same time, we are not really pressed by time because we want to have agreement," he said. "If we reach a good deal by July 10, we understand this creates problems for the U.S. side. But we are not worried by that."
    President Barack Obama has hinted at the possibility that a deal could help spark a new dynamic to the U.S.-Iranian relationship, while attempting to reassure Sunni Gulf states and Israel that a change is conditional on a stop to Iranian aggression in the region.
    Zarif sought to play off the idea of a new beginning for Iran's relations with the world in his video, talking up his country's role in Iraq in combating the radical Islamist group ISIS.
    He pointed to opening "new horizons to address important common challenges" and, despite his country being a top sponsor of terrorism in the world according to U.S. measures, claimed that "Iran has long been at the forefront in the fight against extremism."
    "The menace we are facing -- and I say we because no one is spared -- is embodied by the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilization," he said.