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US Says No Talk of Extending Iran Nuclear Negotiations

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 07:15 AM

VIENNA — A senior U.S. official said on Wednesday a deal on Iran's nuclear program was still possible by late next month and there were no talks now about extending the deadline, after Tehran and Moscow indicated more time may be needed.

However, speaking ahead of a meeting between the top U.S., Iranian and European Union diplomats, the State Department official said there were still some significant gaps in negotiating positions on Iran's uranium enrichment program.

"We don't know if we'll be able to get to an agreement, we very well may not," the official said, declining to be named.

Iran and six world powers -- the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain -- aim to end a decade-old nuclear standoff by a self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline.

In a sign of attempts to accelerate their efforts, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton began talks in Vienna on Wednesday.

The negotiations are centered on curbing Iran's atomic activity, which Tehran says is peaceful but the West fears may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability, in exchange for lifting sanctions hurting its economy.

But with less than six weeks to go before the Nov. 24 target date, Western officials say there are still important differences between the sides, especially over the future scope of Iran's production of enriched uranium, which can have both civilian and military applications.

Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said in Geneva the U.S. should stop focusing on the number of Iran's uranium enrichment centrifuges, which he described as a "trivial matter", and concentrate on pushing for a deal.

Western governments want Iran to cut its centrifuge capacity to the low thousands so that it would take Tehran a long time to purify enough uranium for an atomic weapon. Tehran has rejected demands to significantly reduce the number below the 19,000 it has now installed, of which roughly half are operating.

One of Iran's chief negotiators, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, last week raised the possibility that the talks could be extended, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said the deadline date was not "sacred".

But the State Department official said: "There is still time to get this done. There's enough time to get the technical work done, to get the political agreement ... if everybody can make the decisions they need to."

"We keep chipping away ... In places gaps have narrowed, but the Iranians have some fundamental decisions to make," the official said. "We're not talking about an extension at the moment." Asked whether Washington was ruling out accepting any extension, the official said: "I'm not ruling it in or out".

 

"ARTIFICIAL SCHEDULES"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Paris on Tuesday where he met Kerry, said he was "sure that a compromise is possible" in the negotiations with Iran.

"I can't guarantee you that it would be reached by November 24. This date is not sacred," he told Russian television. "I'm sure that the main thing is not artificial schedules but the essence of the agreements."

Lavrov himself will not be in Geneva for Wednesday's talks.

Kerry said in Paris on Tuesday he did not believe that reaching a lasting accord within six weeks was out of reach, although he noted that many issues remained to be resolved.

Iran rejects Western allegations that it is seeking nuclear weapons capability, but has refused to halt uranium enrichment, and has been hit with U.S., EU and U.N. Security Council sanctions as a result.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the sides "might need more time" to discuss the issues and potential solutions, Iran's ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

"The fact that there are eye-catching disputes, does not mean they cannot be resolved," it quoted Zarif as saying after meeting Ashton in Vienna on Tuesday.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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A senior U.S. official said on Wednesday a deal on Iran's nuclear program was still possible by late next month and there were no talks now about extending the deadline, after Tehran and Moscow indicated more time may be needed.However, speaking ahead of a meeting...
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Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 07:15 AM
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