Iranian minister challenges John Kerry on nuclear talks
Zarif takes US secretary of state to task on Twitter over comments on nuclear talks
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a news conference in Geneva over the weekend. PhotographL Jason Reed/Reuters
The Iranian foreign minister turned to a Twitter account to challenge US secretary of state John Kerry over the failure of talks last weekend in Geneva to produce agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Mohammad Javad Zarif reacted after Mr Kerry told a news conference in the United Arab Emirates that, while the world powers negotiating with Iran had agreed on a unified proposal, Mr Zarif’s team had balked.
His remarks followed reports that France – one of the nations dealing with Iran – had broken ranks to seek tougher terms, objecting that the proposed deal would do too little to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment or to stop the development of a nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium.
“The French signed off on it, we signed off on it,” Mr Kerry said. “There was unity, but Iran couldn’t take it.”
On his Twitter feed late on Monday, Mr Zarif said: “Mr Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? and publicly commented against it Friday morning?”
He was apparently alluding to French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who commented publicly as the talks were under way. “No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6pm Thursday to 5:45pm Saturday but it can further erode confidence,” Mr Zarif wrote, referring to the countries with which Tehran is negotiating – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
In a subsequent tweet, he said: “We are committed to constructive engagement. Interaction on equal footing key to achieve shared objectives.”
The comment suggested that Iranian concerns about the way the talks are depicted would not be a deal-breaker ahead of lower-level talks scheduled for next week.
Indeed, on Monday, Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog agreed in separate discussions that international inspectors would be permitted “managed access” to one site that had caused French concerns – the Arak heavy-water reactor which is still being built.
The West suspects that Iran’s nuclear programme aims to create the capability to build nuclear weapons, but Tehran says it is for peaceful purposes.
The proposal under consideration in Geneva was designed as the first stage of a more extensive deal. It called for Iran to freeze its nuclear programme for up to six months in return for some easing of international sanctions strangling its economy. – (New York Times service)