Iran says hopes for nuclear deal at next meeting

GENEVA (Reuters) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said today they hoped Iran and six world powers would reach an agreement when they gather again in 10 days, adding that the latest round of talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme was something all delegations can build on.

“We have done some intense negotiations and discussions and our objective is to reach a conclusion and that’s what we will come back to try and do,” Ashton told reporters early on the fourth day of negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva.

Ashton, who coordinated the talks, also said Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany would meet again on Nov 20. She said that they made progress in their talks but some issues remained.

This round of talks began on Thursday and US Secretary of State John Kerry unexpectedly arrived on Friday to help narrow remaining differences between Iran and the six nations.

While a deal appeared unlikely yesterday, Western diplomats said the talks were expected to resume. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that if there was no agreement this weekend, “the process will continue in one week or 10 days”.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said it was not clear the delegations would succeed in nailing down an acceptable interim deal that would begin to defuse fears of a stealthy Iranian advance towards nuclear arms capability.

“As I speak to you, I cannot say there is any certainty that we can conclude,” Fabius told France Inter radio, saying Paris could not accept a “fool’s game”.

His pointed remarks hinted at a rift within the Western camp. A Western diplomat close to the negotiations said the French were trying to upstage the other powers.

“The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively together for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations,” the diplomat told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a further sign that the cordiality that reigned in the first round of talks last month and earlier this week was dissipating, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Mehr news agency that his counterparts from the six powers “need constant coordination and consultation in order to determine (their) stances”.

The main sticking points appeared to include calls for a shutdown of an Iranian reactor that could eventually help to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel, the fate of Iran’s stockpile of higher-enriched uranium, and the nature and sequencing of relief from economic sanctions sought by Tehran.

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