VIENNA (APP/Web Desk) – Iran and major powers stood on the brink Tuesday of a historic deal aimed at ensuring Tehran does not acquire a nuclear bomb, with a final ministerial meeting called in Vienna.

The apparent breakthrough came on the 18th day of marathon talks between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

“Final plenary of E3/EU+3 and Iran at 10h30 at the UN,” EU spokeswoman Catherine Ray wrote on Twitter following growing signs that an agreement was within reach.

She said the meeting would be followed by a press conference. US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf tweeted the same schedule. The deal is expected to sharply curb Iran’s nuclear programme and
impose strict UN inspections in order to make any drive to make nuclear weapons all but impossible and easily detectable.

In return, the web of UN and Western sanctions choking Iranian oil exports and the economy of the 78-million-strong country would be progressively lifted.

The diplomatic push began when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013. In November that year an interim deal was agreed but two deadlines in 2014 for a lasting accord were missed.

Then in April, the parties scored a major breakthrough by agreeing the main outlines of an accord, aiming to finalise it by June 30, a deadline since pushed back twice.

Since April, legions of legal and technical experts have made great strides working out the nuts and bolts of how the highly ambitious and technical agreement will work.

The final hurdles included the exact timing and pace of sanctions relief and Iran’s desire to have a UN arms embargo lifted.

The White House said on Monday that the marathon discussions in Vienna had “made genuine progress”.
“But there continues to be some sticking points that remain unresolved,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington.

He said the United States and its partners did not want to rush the final stages of the lengthy talks.

“Typically, some of the most difficult issues are the ones that get kicked to the end, and that’s why the president is going to resist any effort to sort of fast-forward through the closing here,” Earnest said.