Middle East

Iran deal possible this week: foreign minister

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, right, poses for photographers with his Iranian counterpart Jawad Zarif prior to their meeting at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, France, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Benjamin Girette)

PARIS: Iran’s top negotiator said Tuesday that a framework deal with world powers on its nuclear program was “possible this week,” although it would not be a disaster if there was a further delay.

Iran resumes negotiations in Geneva Thursday with six world powers known as the “P5+1” – the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany. The talks are aimed at ending a standoff over the nuclear program, which Western powers suspect may be aimed at developing nuclear weapons, despite Iran’s denials.

“I believe there is a lot of work to be done. We have made some progress, but there is a great deal of mistrust in Iran concerning the attitude, behavior and approach of some members of the P5+1,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told France 24 television during a visit to Paris.

“If we don’t make a breakthrough at this round, it’s not a disaster.”

Since the relative moderate Hasan Rouhani was elected president in June, Iran has suggested greater willingness to negotiate a resolution to the standoff.

Zarif said all sides had boxed themselves into an unnecessary crisis over the last eight years, and reiterated that Tehran did not seek nuclear weapons.

“Even the perception that we are seeking nuclear weapons is detrimental to our security,” he said.

Zarif, who met his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in Paris for the third time in as many months ahead of a speech at the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO Wednesday, said a framework agreement could be achieved with political will on all sides.

“We need to see an endgame that we can all agree on and take a first step on all sides,” said Zarif, who is Iran’s chief negotiator at the talks. “It’s not that difficult to reach that agreement and it’s even possible during this [Geneva] meeting.”

He said recent talks with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, had been positive, as had a meeting between technical experts to prepare for Thursday’s meeting in Geneva. “I believe we have come very far, so we need to take a few more steps,” he said. “We are prepared to take them in Geneva but, if we can’t there, then in the next round.”

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said Fabius hoped the Geneva talks would lead to quick results.

“Iran must respond in a concrete and verifiable way to the concerns of the international community, because negotiations cannot be indefinite,” Nadal said.

Paris has been one of the strongest advocates of sanctions to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

French President Francois Hollande was the first Western leader to meet Rouhani during the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Separately, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog urged Iran to resolve outstanding issues about its suspect nuclear program, North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons, and Syria to answer questions about an alleged nuclear reactor.

Yukia Amano expressed serious concern in a report to the U.N. General Assembly about North Korea’s third nuclear test and its intention to expand enrichment and construct a light water reactor in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Amano said the International Atomic Energy Agency “cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities” – as it claims – but he noted “a productive meeting” last week.

Amano added that Syria had not provided any new information to affect his assessment that a building destroyed at Deir al-Zor in 2007 had been a nuclear reactor.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 06, 2013, on page 1.




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