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John Kerry struggles to resolve the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear ambitions

By Tajuddin
In WORLD NEWS
Nov 21st, 2014
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US secretary of state John Kerry leaves a meeting in Vienna on Friday.

US secretary of state John Kerry leaves a meeting in Vienna on Friday.

Vienna ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – John Kerry cancelled his departure from Vienna on Friday night and continued negotiating with Iran’s foreign minister , the US secretary of state struggled to resolve the confrontation over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Both Mr Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had indicated that they would leave Austria’s capital.

But the two men then held another meeting in the Palais Coburg at 5.30pm. Almost three hours later, with Mr Kerry and Mr Zarif still locked in conversation, the State Department confirmed that the secretary of state’s travel plans had changed.

Mr Kerry will “stay in Vienna overnight” to “continue consultations” with Mr Zarif, said a spokesman.

The unexpected move raised hopes that an agreement might still be possible by Monday’s deadline.

However, a diplomat described the talks as “sombre and serious”, adding that “significant gaps still remain”.

In particular, America and Iran remain at loggerheads over the size of the latter’s capacity to enrich uranium.

Iran wants to keep all of the 19,500 centrifuges installed in two uranium enrichment plants. The US, by contrast, is believed to have asked Tehran to sacrifice almost 80 per cent of these machines and accept a limit of about 4,000.

America and its allies are trying to ensure that Iran would need about 12 months to make enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb.

America and Iran also differ over how sanctions would be lifted in the event of an agreement. Iran wants all restrictions to go immediately; the US aims to keep the ability to re-impose some measures in case Tehran breaks a deal.

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, gave a relatively upbeat assessment of the talks when he arrived in Vienna on Friday.

“There has been positive discussions, there’s a very cordial atmosphere,” he said. “It’s clear that both sides want to try to get a deal done, but none of us want to do a bad deal – and we’re very clear we have to get more flexibility from the Iranians. In return, we’re prepared to show some flexibility on our side.”

Mr Hammond added: “The prize for Iran is huge: access to very large amounts of frozen assets, the ability to trade freely with the world again and the ability to reset relationships with the international community.”

However, the Foreign Secretary hinted that one possible outcome of this meeting could be a set of agreed principles rather than a comprehensive accord that settles every aspect of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Mr Hammond said: “What we’re all focused on now is trying to get the key principles of a deal agreed in the next 72 hours so we can meet that important deadline.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, will travel back to Tehran for “consultations and exchange of views with top officials,” said IRNA, an official news agency.

Experts believe that a framework agreement of this kind is the most likely result of the talks. Mark Fitzpatrick, a non-proliferation specialist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that Mr Hammond was “being realistic” to hint at this possibility.

“The idea of getting a comprehensive accord is an impossible goal, but the fallback of a framework agreement is feasible,” added Mr Fitzpatrick.

Such a framework would probably extend the deadline for a final agreement. It would also renew the existing interim deal reached in Geneva last November which places restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme.

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