Iran General NewsIran deal falters as negotiators cite little progress

Iran deal falters as negotiators cite little progress

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Bloomberg: Negotiators weren’t able to reach agreement on a first-step accord to resolve a decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, reducing the likelihood that foreign ministers will arrive to strike a deal after two days of negotiations in Geneva.
Bloomberg

By Jonathan Tirone, Indira A.R. Lakshmanan & Kambiz Foroohar

Negotiators weren’t able to reach agreement on a first-step accord to resolve a decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, reducing the likelihood that foreign ministers will arrive to strike a deal after two days of negotiations in Geneva.

Talks between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief representing world powers at the talks, broke up late yesterday after more than six hours of intense consultations, the EU said in a statement. The sides will reconvene today.

“We have made no progress” toward resolving certain disagreements in the text, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters in Geneva. He said foreign ministers won’t come unless there’s “success in negotiations.”

EU spokesman Michael Mann cast the talks in a more positive light, calling them “intense, substantial and detailed” and citing a “good atmosphere.” It was the third round of meetings in six weeks between Iranian envoys and their counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S.

The envoys are trying to strike a first-step accord that would give negotiators six months in which to win a broader agreement over Iran’s nuclear work. Israel and the U.S. have said they don’t rule out a military strike on Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Persian Gulf nation of 80 million people, which controls the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves, says it’s not seeking a nuclear bomb and wants trade sanctions lifted.

‘Different Interpretation’

Negotiators haven’t agreed yet on language defining parameters for Iran’s disputed uranium enrichment, the separation process that yields fissile material that can be used to generate nuclear power or weapons.

“Some of the countries have a different interpretation on enrichment rights,” Majid Takh-Ravanchi, another of Zarif’s deputies, said in Geneva.

Before entering this week’s talks, Zarif offered to compromise on the issue, saying last week there’s no necessity for formal recognition of the right because it’s self-evident in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Article 4 says countries have an “inalienable right” to nuclear technology.

The Obama administration says the treaty gives no explicit right to enrichment, though officials have said it would be possible to settle on terms for Iran to maintain a domestic program, as long as it is verifiably for peaceful purposes only.
Due Back

The sides continue to disagree on four or five issues even after reaching accord on other sticking points left over from the last meeting, according to a European diplomat who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks. Foreign ministers may still fly to Geneva to sign a deal if language can be worked out today, the envoy said.

Iran’s Zarif is due back in Tehran by Nov. 24 for the start of an Economic Cooperation Meeting of regional trading partners, according to Iranian diplomats.

Failure to strike an accord increases the prospects that U.S. legislators will seek to impose additional sanctions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in Washington yesterday that, while he supports the negotiations in Geneva, the Senate will be prepared to push for “a bill that would broaden the scope” of sanctions when lawmakers return in December from a Thanksgiving holiday break.

A group of 14 senators from both political parties issued a statement yesterday pledging to “work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”

U.S. Poll

The U.S. public backs an interim agreement along the lines being considered in Geneva, with 56 percent in favor to 39 percent against, according to a poll carried out by ORC International for CNN television and published yesterday. The poll based on 843 interviews cited a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The accord would deliver Iran limited sanctions relief from trade in gold, autos, petrochemicals and civilian aircraft parts in exchange for a verified halt to some elements of its nuclear activities, according to diplomats.

Opponents of the proposed agreement include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said it would give Iran too much sanctions relief. Yesterday in Geneva, a U.S. official involved in the talks dismissed concerns that an interim deal would weaken the sanctions regime.

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