Iran nuclear talks: We must 'seize moment', says Hague

 
Talks at UN offices in Geneva, Switzerland. 7 Nov  2013 The talks in Geneva had only been scheduled to last two days

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague urged negotiators to "seize the moment", on a third, unscheduled day of talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

Mr Hague hailed "good progress" in Geneva but said there was uncertainty about whether a deal could be reached.

An Iranian official said if a deal was not reached on Saturday, outstanding issues would carry over to a new round.

Under a possible deal, Iran could freeze expansion of nuclear activity for limited sanctions relief.

The Geneva talks involve Iran and the P5+1: the US, Russia, Britain, France and China as permanent UN Security Council members, plus Germany.

All are represented by their foreign ministers.

"It's certainly not possible to say that we can be sure there will be a deal at the end of today," said William Hague

The talks have continued all day Saturday.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton, said: "There has clearly been progress but like in all these things it's always a bit more complicated than people think, so we're working very hard and intensively to try and move things forward."

Speaking to the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was more cautious about a deal than a couple of days ago, but that a deal was coming.

Mr Zarif also said he had a message for US President Barack Obama - that a deal was attainable but that the window of opportunity would not be open indefinitely.

'No certainty'

Mr Hague said that momentum had built up in the negotiations and there was a very different atmosphere from that of just a few months ago.

"There is now a real concentration on these negotiations so we have to do everything we can to seize the moment and seize the opportunity to reach a deal that has eluded the world," he said.

At the scene

Helicopters hover overhead, limousines sweep into the forecourt, Swiss police with machine guns are on every corner. This is Geneva's Hotel Intercontinental, where a club sandwich costs $30, and the bar stays open all night. It's been at the heart of tricky diplomacy for decades.

This is where, in 1991, the US Secretary of State James Baker spent many tense hours with Iraq's Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, trying in vain to avert war in Iraq. They sat, one aide remembers in a "rather featureless" hotel conference room. It is where Slobodan Milosevic was pushed, painfully slowly, towards the 1995 Dayton peace accord for Bosnia, allegedly enjoying a single malt or three while the negotiations dragged on.

Just weeks ago Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry struck a deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. Now they're back, so too are the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, and China. The issues change, but the Intercon stays a favourite venue for negotiations, and that featureless conference room looks just the same.

But he added that it was too early to say whether the talks would reach a successful conclusion.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said there was "no certainty" of a deal as there were "some points with which we are not satisfied".

One sticking point was whether Iran should suspend operations at its Arak research reactor - a possible producer of weapons-grade plutonium - during negotiations, Mr Fabius told French radio.

Tehran was also resisting demands to downgrade its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%.

"How can we bring that stock down to 5%, which is a lot less dangerous?" the French foreign minister asked.

Iranian media cited "splits" in the world powers.

"French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has obstructed the reaching of a deal," said Tabnak news agency, while Isna news agency quoted Mr Zarif as saying there were "differences of opinion" among the P5+1.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who is at the negotiations, said Tehran and the world powers remained divided.

"The negotiations will not go on tomorrow. Either they end tonight or there is another round."

US Secretary of State John Kerry had met Mr Zarif and Lady Ashton for five hours on Friday evening.

Mr Kerry, who interrupted the itinerary of his tour to the Middle East and North Africa to join the talks, had earlier said that there were still "important gaps" between Iran and world powers.

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.

The West suspects Iran's uranium enrichment programme is a step towards building nuclear weapons - a charge Iran strongly denies.

Israeli fury

Mr Obama telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to allay fears about any deal.

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Israel's deepest fear has been that Iran will sucker the world powers into relaxing the crippling regime of sanctions in return for concessions which slow down but do not stop the development of its nuclear capabilities”

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A White House statement said Mr Obama had updated the Israeli leader on the talks in Geneva, and repeated his commitment to stopping Tehran getting a nuclear weapon.

Mr Netanyahu had earlier said he "utterly rejected" such a deal with Iran, its long-time enemy, and that his country would not be obliged to abide by it.

Defence analysts have speculated the Israelis may take military action to disrupt Iran's programme.

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.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 291.

    Iran should go Nuclear and level the playing field with Israel and the US, Israel needs taking down a peg or two and putting it in its place that it cannot threaten neighbouring Country's and get away with it any more, Iran going Nuclear could bring Peace to the Middle East,
    And as for William Hague, stupid is as stupid does.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 290.

    If Israel didn't have nuclear weapons then Israel would likely be at permanent war with surrounding Arab states. I offer Israel - Wales. Come and take over here and provide some excellent forward thinking. We really need it! Weather not so good but lots of nice countryside.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 289.

    Good to see people chatting instead of killing.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 288.

    @144. BLRBrazil
    "There are countries that, had they had nuclear weapons, would probably have used them"

    But there's only one country who actually used them... the hypocrite USA of course.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 287.

    We are witnessing the slow decline in U.S world Dominance.Iran's development of any nature will be the catalyst and thus it suits the U.S to make sure the sanctions remain and that the middle east is in a constant state of tension pivoting on war.
    The U.S can either go quietly (like we did) or adopt a "Last Days of Rome" attitude and bring the whole world down with them.

 

Comments 5 of 291

 

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