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
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
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
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
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
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