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Iran, US: Current Nuke Negotiations at 'Critical' Stage

Image: Iran, US: Current Nuke Negotiations at 'Critical' Stage Secretary of State John Kerry with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton before their meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Geneva on Nov. 8.

By Drew MacKenzie   |   Friday, 08 Nov 2013 01:30 PM

Talks to implement the first stage of a nuclear deal between Iran and western powers came down to the wire on Friday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that it was "a very bad deal" and his country would do "everything" to defend itself.

Secretary of State John Kerry was in Geneva, along with European officials, to meet with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the hope of hammering out an initial agreement that would curb Iran's suspected nuclear program in exchange for limited relief of economic sanctions.

Zarif said that although they were facing "a very difficult task" in the next few months, he believes a joint text could be released by the weekend that would lay the groundwork for a breakthrough in the standoff.

"The only way that we can create confidence and sustain this process is to have balance in the first step, about each side trying to alleviate the most immediate concerns of the other side," Zarif told The Christian Science Monitor. "We still have to nail them down and put them on paper, and in the best of circumstances we can finish it."

"This is going to be a critical stage today, and a critical process once we start implementing it. I believe leaders must show courage and leadership to take this process forward, and that is what we expect from President Obama and Secretary Kerry, and that is what they should expect from us."

But Netanyahu, who has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran, even without the backing of the United States, said that he "utterly rejects" the proposed agreement because he believes it will not prevent Iran from obtaining the capability of building nuclear bombs.

Netanyahu, who had a two-hour meeting with Kerry in Tel Aviv before he flew to Switzerland, said: "I reminded him that he said that no deal is better than a bad deal. The deal that is being discussed in Geneva right now is a bad deal. It's a very bad deal."

Netanyahu maintains that pressure must be applied to Iran until it halts its enrichment of uranium, a key step to producing nuclear weapons. He also wants a suspected enrichment facility shut down as well as the closure of a plant that possibly produces plutonium, another gateway to nuclear arms.

"The international community is relieving sanctions on Iran for the first time after many years," he added. "Iran gets everything that it wanted at this stage and it pays nothing. And this is when Iran is under severe pressure. Iran is not required to take apart even one centrifuge.

"I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. It's the deal of a century for Iran. It's a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community."

But Kerry, who had been in the region working on Israel-Palestinian peace talks, attempted to reassure Netanyahu that there would be no rush to reach an understanding with Iran.

"I want to emphasize there is not an agreement at this point," Kerry told reporters in Geneva. "We hope to try to narrow these differences, but I don't think anybody should mistake there are some important gaps that have to be closed."

The negotiations to dismantle Iran's nuclear power and reduce the risk of a war in the Middle East began after the election of Iran's moderate president Hassan Rouhani.

Information from Reuters was used to supplement this report.

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