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201220132015
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Breakthrough remains elusive in nuclear talks with Iran
Video: Secretary of State John Kerry warns of gaps between Iran and six world powers working on a nuclear agreement.
By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick, E-mail the writers
GENEVA — Secretary of State John F. Kerry held a third round of direct negotiations with his Iranian counterpart here Saturday night amid talks on a possible deal over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
In a day of musical chairs and closed-door sessions, top diplomats from six countries — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, along with E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton — held bilateral and trilateral talks with one another and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. As officials emerged from one meeting to begin another, they offered differing accounts of the extent of progress being made and whether agreement during the current negotiating round remains possible.
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Tensions ease between United States and Iran: Relations between the two countries have thawed recently after years of tensions.
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Kerry, who met with Zarif and Ashton for five hours on Friday and two hours at midday Saturday before holding a third session that began well after dark, made no public comment.
Earlier in the day, as Zarif met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he told Iranian media that progress was being made and some issues had been resolved. If there is no deal this weekend, he said, negotiators would try again in a week or 10 days. Later, Zarif told the BBC in an interview that his message to President Obama was that “this window of opportunity won’t be open indefinitely,” BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen tweeted.
The countries across the table from Iran were not entirely in agreement among themselves. Officials said that some of the strongest objections to the draft agreement that is the basis for the current high-level talks came from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who said the six should avoid falling for a “fool’s game” that was advantageous to Iran. Fabius’s worry about Israel’s security concerns, which he said must be taken “fully into account,” appeared even stronger than that expressed by Obama, who tried to reassure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Friday telephone call after Netanyahu called the draft “a very bad deal.”
“There is an initial draft that we do not accept,” Fabius told French radio, adding, “I have no certainty that we can finish up” before the departure of the foreign ministers who came to Geneva to lend weight to the talks.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague sounded somewhat more optimistic, telling reporters that the participants would continue “to apply all our efforts to this today to try to seize this opportunity.” Hague said officials were “conscious of the fact that some momentum has built up,” although “there is no fixed time for us to reach a conclusion.”
Both Fabius and Hague cited complications arising from the two main issues in the negotiations. Disagreements center on the status of Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor and the separate production of highly enriched uranium — both processes that can be used to produce a nuclear weapon — and on what to do with the stockpile of uranium that Iran has already enriched to 20 percent.
Iran, which says it has no interest in weapons production and is producing only electricity, wants Western economic sanctions that are strangling its economy to be lifted.
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