Iran and six powers remain divided in nuclear talks
France sees big hurdles in search for deal; John Kerry in Geneva for third day of talks
British foreign secretary William Hague addresses the media outside the Intercontinental hotel on the third day of closed-door nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Iran and six world powers remain divided on the third day of negotiations on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme, a senior Iranian negotiator said today, according to Iranian media.
“There is greater agreement on some issues and less agreement on other issues,” deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi told the ISNA news agency.
Mr Araqchi said that he expected this round of talks in Geneva would end later on Saturday. If other issues remain, they would be carried over for further negotiations, he added.
Earlier today France arned of serious stumbling blocks to a long-sought deal over Iran’s nuclear programm.
As the talks stretched on, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said there was no certainty they would succeed in nailing down an interim deal that would begin to defuse fears of a covert Iranian advance towards nuclear arms capability.
“As I speak to you, I cannot say there is any certainty that we can conclude,” Mr Fabius said on France Inter radio, stressing that France could not accept a “sucker’s deal”.
British foreign secretary William Hague said the talks have achieved “very good progress” but important issues remained unresolved and he did not know whether a deal could be clinched by the end of the day.
“We are very conscious of the fact that real momentum has built up in these negotiations and there is now real concentration on these negotiations and so we have to do everything we can to seize the moment,” he told reporters.
Among the sticking points, Mr Fabius said, was a call for Iran to halt operations at its Arak research reactor - a potential producer of bomb-grade plutonium - while the negotiating process goes on, as well as questions about Iran’s stock of uranium enriched to 20 percent of fissile purity.
Both issues are at the heart of Western concerns that the Islamic Republic is stockpiling enriched uranium not for civilian nuclear power stations, as Tehran says, but rather potential fuel for atomic bombs.
“We are for an agreement, that’s clear. But the agreement has got to be serious and credible. The initial text made progress but not enough,” Mr Fabius said.
France has traditionally taken a tougher line on Iran than most other world powers and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused Paris of being more intransigent in talks than Tehran’s longtime main adversary, the United States.
The spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is coordinating negotiations with Iran on behalf of the six nations, said she continued “intense” talks and contacts on Saturday morning with the parties involved.
Ms Ashton, US secretary of state John Kerry and Mr Zarif were later expected to resume trilateral talks after a five-hour session on Friday evening.