No Iran nuclear deal yet, says US

John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry said important issues remained “unresolved”

US Secretary of State John Kerry has stressed that no agreement has yet been reached on Iran’s nuclear programme, as he arrived for key talks in Geneva.

He has joined the UK, French and German foreign ministers for unscheduled talks with Iranian representatives.

Under a deal that has been floated Iran could freeze expansion of its nuclear activity for limited sanctions relief.

Israel’s PM said he “utterly rejected” such a deal and that his country would not be obliged to abide by it.

‘Important gaps’

The BBC’s James Reynolds, in Geneva, says that for years Iranian nuclear talks have moved ahead slowly – if at all. But he says that, following the arrival of a new Iranian President – Hassan Rouhani – the talks here are progressing quickly.

However, although the sides appear closer to a breakthrough than during previous talks, the outcome still remains uncertain.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal”

Mr Kerry interrupted the itinerary of his tour to the Middle East and North Africa to fly to Geneva after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Mr Kerry is expected to hold a series of meetings, including a trilateral with top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

On arrival he said: “I am delighted to be here at the invitation of Catherine Ashton to try to work with colleagues to see if we can narrow some differences.

“There are still some things on the table that are unresolved. I want to emphasise there is not an agreement at this point.

“[We] hope to try to narrow the differences but no-one should mistake that there are important gaps to be closed.”

The Geneva talks involve the P5+1 – the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

The French, German and UK Foreign Ministers – Laurent Fabius, Guido Westerwelle and William Hague – have also arrived in Geneva.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is not expected to attend the talks but Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov is in the city.

A spokesperson for David Cameron said the UK’s prime minister had discussed the situation with French President Francois Hollande.

“They agreed that there is a real opportunity to make significant progress and we should do all we can to seize it,” the spokesperson said.

Friday prayer leaders across Iran have urged the public to support the nuclear negotiating team, the Irna news agency reports.

The imam in Qom, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Saidi, was quoted as telling worshippers: “The Islamic Iran under the leadership of the eminent leader supports talks with Westerners, but from a position of strength and with dignity.”

‘Bad deal’

Mr Zarif said on Friday there was “the general outline of an agreement”.

He said: “We have now entered the very difficult and sensitive phase of editing the text that will be published, should the talks reach an agreement soon.”

Although details of the suggested deal have not been disclosed, it is thought to offer Iran a gradual easing of sanctions in return for a freeze on expansion of nuclear activities.

Mr Netanyahu said agreeing the deal would be a serious mistake.

He said: “Everything [Iran] wanted, they wanted relief of sanctions after years of a gruelling sanctions regime, they got that. They are paying nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability.

“Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal, this is a very bad deal. Israel utterly rejects it.

“Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people.”

Since 2006 the UN Security Council has imposed a series of sanctions – including asset freezes and travel bans – on entities and people involved in Iran’s nuclear programme.

Separate US and EU sanctions have targeted Iran’s energy and banking sectors, crippling its oil-based economy.

BBC News – World

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