Kerry to join Iran nuclear talks in bid to bridge gaps

Possible compromise on Tehran’s claimed ‘right to enrich’ uranium


Us secretary of state John Kerry will travel to Geneva to join talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, the State Department said today, as Tehran and six world powers appeared closer to clinching an elusive breakthrough.

Washington’s announcement came after diplomats in the Swiss city said a major sticking point in negotiations on an agreement under which Tehran would curb its contested atomic activities may have been overcome.

Mr Kerry would leave for Geneva later today “with the goal of continuing to help narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The decision was taken after consulting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is coordinating talks with Iran on behalf of the six powers, Ms Psaki added in a statement.

Diplomats earlier said a compromise over Iran’s insistence that its “right” to enrich uranium be internationally recognised has been proposed, possibly opening the way to a breakthrough in intensive negotiations that began on Wednesday.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Geneva this evening and met with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and with Ashton, a Russian spokeswoman said.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius expressed hope that a deal could be made, telling reporters in Paris that he was in contact with the negotiators in Geneva. France has taken a harder line than other Western powers and repeatedly urged the six-power group not to make too many compromises with Tehran.

“As long as there is no agreement, there is no agreement. You know our position ... it’s a position based on firmness, but at the same time a position of hope that we can reach a deal,” Mr Fabius said.

The United States and other Western powers say there is no such thing as a right to enrich - a process that can yield both electricity and nuclear bombs - but Iran views it as a matter of national sovereignty and crucial to any deal that would resolve a decade-old standoff over its nuclear intentions.

The Islamic Republic also wants relief from economic sanctions in return for any nuclear concessions that could allay the West’s suspicions that its nuclear fuel-making programme has military rather than its stated civilian goals.

Foreign ministers from the six nations negotiating with Iran - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - waded into the previous talks on November 7th-9thand came close to winning concessions from Iran which they count on to reduce the risk of Iran achieving a nuclear weapons capability.