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Iran Nuke Talks Continue in New Phase  03/31 06:05

   Wrapping up six days of marathon nuclear talks with mixed results, Iran and 
six world powers prepared Tuesday to issue a general statement agreeing to 
continue negotiations in a new phase aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord 
by the end of June, officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

   LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Wrapping up six days of marathon nuclear talks 
with mixed results, Iran and six world powers prepared Tuesday to issue a 
general statement agreeing to continue negotiations in a new phase aimed at 
reaching a comprehensive accord by the end of June, officials told The 
Associated Press on Tuesday.

   The joint statement is to be accompanied by additional documents that 
outline more detailed understandings, allowing the sides to claim enough 
progress has been made thus far to merit a new round, the officials said.

   The talks have already been extended twice as part of more than a decade of 
diplomatic attempts to curb Tehran's nuclear advance, and the next stage will 
be presented as a new phase, because most of the parties had ruled out another 
prolongation of this round.

   One of the officials said the statement was general in part because 
differences between the sides remained ahead of a new phase of negotiations 
toward a comprehensive deal by late June. The second official said other 
documents will be more technical in nature and will also be made public later 
in the day.

   Both demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to comment on the 
talks.

   American officials earlier had said the sides were aiming for a framework 
agreement by the end of March but then revised the language, speaking of an 
"understanding."

   That appeared due in part to opposition to a two-stage agreement from Iran's 
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Earlier this year, he demanded only one 
deal that nails down specifics and does not permit the other side to "make 
things difficult" by giving it wiggle room on interpretations.

   The documents were being finalized among the six countries negotiating with 
Iran, and the Iranian side had not yet signed off on them, said the first 
official.

   Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who left Lausanne Monday, was 
heading back to the Swiss city, also indicating that an end to the talks was 
near. He departed on Monday but said he would return if a deal was imminent.

   In Moscow, he told reporters: "Prospects for this round of negotiations were 
not bad, and I would even say good."

   Foreign ministers of five nations at the table already joined U.S. Secretary 
of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the 
talks over the weekend in an intense effort to reach a political understanding 
on terms that would curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions 
relief.

   Kerry and others at the table said the sides have made some progress, with 
Iran considering demands for further cuts to its uranium enrichment program but 
pushing back on how long it must limit technology it could use to make atomic 
arms. In addition to sticking points on research and development, differences 
remain on the timing and scope of sanctions removal, the officials said.

   The Obama administration says any deal will stretch the time Iran needs to 
make a nuclear weapon from the present two to three months to at least a year. 
But critics object that it would keep Tehran's nuclear technology intact.

   Officials in Lausanne said the sides were advancing on limits to aspects of 
Iran's program to enrich uranium, which can be used to make the core of a 
nuclear warhead.

   Uranium enrichment has been the chief concern in over more than a decade of 
international attempts to cap Iran's nuclear programs. But Western officials 
say the main obstacles to a deal are no longer enrichment-related but instead 
the type and length of restrictions on Tehran's research and development of 
advanced centrifuges and the pace of sanctions-lifting.

   Over the past weeks, Iran has moved from demanding that it be allowed to 
keep nearly 10,000 centrifuges enriching uranium, to agreeing to 6,000. The 
officials said Tehran now may be ready to accept even fewer.

   Tehran says it wants to enrich only for energy, science, industry and 
medicine. But many countries fear Iran could use the technology to make 
weapons-grade uranium.


(KA)


 
 
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