BRUSSELS/VIENNA, July 17 (Reuters) - With talks between world powers and Iran over a broad nuclear accord at an impasse, Western governments are considering offering a significant easing of sanctions early on in the process to try to wring concessions from Tehran, diplomats say.
To be effective, such a plan would have to involve clear guidance to companies made wary by U.S. fines for sanctions-busting, be reversible and not go too far, or sceptical U.S. lawmakers would simply reimpose restrictions.
The OPEC oil producer has seen its economy devastated by years of sanctions imposed over its contested nuclear programme, which Western states say appears to be aimed at producing a nuclear bomb and Tehran says is purely peaceful.
The prospects for an immediate accord scaling back that programme in return for sanctions relief appeared tenuous on Thursday. Diplomats said the six world powers negotiating with Iran - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - were working out terms for an extension of talks, beyond their self-imposed July 20 deadline, instead of seeking to close a deal now.
If there is an agreement in the coming weeks or months, Western diplomats have told Reuters, Iran might still have to wait years, or as long as two decades, to see the complex web of sanctions permanently removed.