Dismay as Iran nuclear talks unresolved

Israeli officials are sceptical that an extended deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear programme will block its attempts to achieve a nuclear weapon.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers group broke up last Friday in Vienna having failed to reach an agreement. The deadline has been put back by four months.

The temporary deal signed last November in Geneva in which Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment and the building of a new heavy-water reactor, in exchange for limited sanctions relief, was due to expire on July 20.

The failure of the sides to reach a new long-term agreement left little choice but to extend the interim deal until late November. During this period, Iran has agreed to the limits on nuclear development already in place and in return will receive a further $2.8 billion of funds frozen under the sanctions.

Israeli officials said in recent weeks that an extension of the current interim agreement is "just what Iran wants" but the official response from Jerusalem was muted.

In an interview with Reuters, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Israel is "not enthusiastic about an extension but that it would be better than a bad deal or a deal that is incomplete".

An Israeli official explained that while the interim deal limited Iran's capabilities to produce the enriched uranium necessary for a nuclear warhead, the Iranians will still be able to progress in other research and development areas.

Meanwhile, "the tough sanctions that forced Iran to the negotiating table are being eroded without Iran having to give anything significant in return."

On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report saying that, so far, Iran has complied with its commitments in the interim agreement.

Last updated: 9:45am, July 25 2014