Kerry says no deal yet in Iran nuclear talks

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on November 7, 2013 before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks in Geneva. (Photo: AFP - Fabrice Coffrini)

Published Friday, November 8, 2013

Updated at 6:50pm: World powers and Iran have yet to reach a deal on Iran's nuclear program but are working hard to do so, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.

"There is not an agreement at this point," Kerry said shortly after arriving in Geneva Friday to help seal what is hoped to be a landmark with Tehran, but stressed that the six world powers leading the talks were "working hard."

"I don't think anybody should mistake that there are some important gaps that have to be closed," he added.

Meanwhile, the UN nuclear agency said that its chief Yukiya Amano will hold talks with senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Monday with the aim of "strengthening dialogue and cooperation."

His decision to accept an Iranian invitation to visit may be a sign of progress in long-stalled efforts by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate the Islamic state's disputed atomic activities.

Kerry met with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday before heading to Geneva for landmark three-way talks with Iran and the EU.

The Israeli prime minister denounced the possible deal as a "historic mistake."

In an effort to help narrow the differences in negotiations, “Secretary Kerry will travel to Geneva, Switzerland today at the invitation of EU High Representative [Catherine] Ashton to hold a trilateral meeting with High Representative Ashton and [Iranian] Foreign Minister [Mohammed] Zarif on the margins of the P5+1 negotiations,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early on Friday.

A senior State Department official said that since the first round of talks with Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s administration last month, "Kerry has been open to the possibility of traveling to Geneva for this round of negotiations if it would help narrow differences."

The official added that Ashton had asked Kerry to attend the Geneva talks help bridge the gaps,

"As we've said, this is a complex process. And as a member of the P5+1, he is committed to doing anything he can to help," the official added.

The US clarified that Kerry's arrival in Geneva is not indicative of a sealed deal with Iran after years of foot-dragging and suspicion.

Western governments and Israel suspect Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability under cover of its civilian program. Tehran denies any such ambition and, since Rohani took office in August, has made overtures suggesting it is prepared to scale back its enrichment of uranium in return for the easing of crippling Western sanctions.

World powers and Iran are working intensively to advance talks in Geneva over Iran's disputed nuclear program, a spokesman for Ashton said on Friday.

"Very intense work is continuing," spokesman Michael Mann told reporters. The six world powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – appeared to be closing in on a long-elusive deal in the decade-old dispute over Iranian nuclear intentions after talks on Thursday.

Netanyahu said that that Israel does not see itself committed to any deal between Iran and world powers.

“I understand that the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva as well they should be because they got everything and paid nothing," Haaretz quoted him as saying. "They got everything they wanted; they wanted relief of sanctions after years of a harsh sanctions regime, they got that. They are paying nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability."

The White House rejected angry Israeli criticism as "premature" as no agreement had yet been reached in Geneva talks.

"There is no deal. Any critique of the deal is premature," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said aboard Air Force One.

The talks have proceeded much to Israel's dismay, as the Kremlin made promising statements concerning their outcome.

The six world powers and Iran could agree on a "road map" for ending the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program at talks in Geneva on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

He told reporters he did not wish to speculating the outcome of the talks but said Iran should be allowed to have a peaceful nuclear program under the watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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