VIENNA — The U.S. and its allies stuck to their demands on Wednesday that Iran clear up all suspicions it worked on nuclear arms if it wants full sanctions relief — suggesting a broad new accord isn't likely by a July target date.
The comments outside a 35-nation board meeting of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency added to doubt that a comprehensive deal with Iran — including a conclusion on whether it worked on nuclear arms — can be reached by the informal July 20 deadline.
The West wants any comprehensive deal to place strict, long-term constraints on Iranian nuclear programs that could be used to make atomic arms.
Tehran says it never had interest in such weapons. But it is negotiating with the U.S. Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany on the nuclear curbs, and has provided some information to agency experts probing the suspected weapons work in hopes of an end to sanctions on its economy.
The European Union repeated Wednesday that closing the books on the IAEA probe will be "essential" to reaching a comprehensive deal.
And with the long-delayed U.N. probe just starting to make some progress, Joseph Macmanus, the U.S. envoy to the Vienna-based IAEA, called the July deadline "ambitious."
Canadian chief delegate Mark Bailey said such investigations take years, and said it was "clear" that the probe won't be completed by then.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said this week that neither side expected the probe to finish by July 20, suggesting it could stretch far later. He could not say if the probe would end by year-end, but added that Iran is cooperating "substantively" with it.
The nuclear talks resume June 16. Disagreements at the last month negotiating round prevented the sides from starting to draft a pact as hoped.