Iran, US to resume nuclear talks

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Published Thursday, September 4, 2014

Updated at 2:17 pm (GMT+3): Iranian and American officials resumed negotiations in Geneva on Thursday as they sought to hammer out a full nuclear deal ahead of a November deadline, US officials said.

The US team led by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Under Secretary Wendy Sherman met with Iranian officials on Thursday and Friday in the Swiss city, the State Department announced in a surprise late-night statement on Wednesday.

Iranian state news agency IRNA and a US official confirmed the discussions were underway. "If there is good will and a constructive approach, we can reach a desired result before November 24," IRNA quoted Iran's deputy foreign minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi as saying late on Wednesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, one of Iran's chief negotiators, is also at the discussions, which IRNA said would last until Saturday.

Global powers and Iran agreed in late July to extend a deadline to reach a comprehensive and complex deal on Tehran's nuclear ambitions until November 24.

The negotiations being led by a group known as the P5+1 had been expected to resume on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month in New York.

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said he had had "good discussions" with Ashton and that Tehran was committed to an accord over its nuclear program.

Quoted by the Belga state news agency, Zarif said he was "fairly optimistic" after that Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – plus Germany could reach a deal by the November deadline.

Zarif then met Wednesday in Rome with Federica Mogherini, the current Italian foreign minister who will shortly take over from Ashton as the public face of EU foreign policy.

Mogherini's first major goal will be to wrap up the Iran deal and she said her discussions with Zarif had left her hopeful.

"It is my hope the negotiations will have a positive outcome and that this will be done by November 23, the agreed deadline," she said.

"I was assured that there is a strong political will in Tehran for this to happen and we hope that there will also be the necessary technical steps taken."

The West claims Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the program is purely for peaceful purposes.

In exchange for accepting curbs on its nuclear activities, Iran wants a slew of crippling US, EU and UN sanctions to be lifted.

But any deal will have to be approved by leadership in Tehran as well as by the US Congress, where many lawmakers are seeking to impose even tougher sanctions on Iran.

The talks will come after Washington this weekend unleashed a new round of sanctions against Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Saturday condemned the new sanctions saying they had "further deepened" mistrust.

His remarks followed the US government's announcement of a slew of penalties targeting dozens of Iranian individuals and entities, including shipping and oil companies, banks and airlines.

"This is not compatible with the atmosphere of the negotiations," Rouhani said of action by the US Treasury and State Department.

"It goes against confidence building measures. Mistrust has further deepened," he told reporters.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)


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