Iran, Powers Extend Talks to Clinch Elusive Nuclear Deal
Geneva – Iran and six world powers extended high-stakes talks over Tehran’s nuclear program into an unscheduled third day on Saturday, as their top diplomats labored to hammer out a long-sought deal to end a decade-old standoff. The United States and Iran were cautious and tight-lipped after a five-hour trilateral meeting between their foreign ministers and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is coordinating talks with the Islamic state for the six powers.
They were searching for an agreement to ease international fears that Iran is seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons and, in exchange, offer the Middle East nation limited relief from sanctions that are hurting its economy. The aim is to take a first step towards resolving a protracted dispute that could otherwise plunge the volatile and oil-rich region into a new conflict.
“We’re working hard,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters as he arrived at his hotel shortly before midnight (6 p.m. ET) following the meeting with Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. A senior State Department official said: “Over the course of the evening, we continued to make progress as we worked to the narrow the gaps. There is more work to do.”
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said: “It was productive but still we have lots of work to do.” The negotiations, originally planned as a two-day meeting for Thursday and Friday, will continue on Saturday morning. Midway through the second round of talks since Iran elected a moderate president who opened doors to a peaceful solution to the nuclear dispute, Kerry joined fellow big power foreign ministers in Geneva to help cement a preliminary accord. Israel warned they were making an epic mistake. Kerry said he would try to “narrow these differences but I don’t think anybody should mistake there are some important gaps that have to be closed.” (Reuters)