Rouhani speaks with French, British, Russian leaders as nuclear talks resume

Framework deal can be done by end-March, says US official

US under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman , secretary of state John Kerry, secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, National Security Council point person on the Middle East Robert Malley, EU political director Helga Schmid, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif  at a meeting yesterday.

US under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman , secretary of state John Kerry, secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, National Security Council point person on the Middle East Robert Malley, EU political director Helga Schmid, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a meeting yesterday.

 

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Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani spoke with the leaders of France, Britain, China and Russia yesterday in an apparent effort to break an impasse holding up a nuclear deal between Tehran and major world powers.

He also raised the Saudi-led military operation against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen, a divisive issue. US secretary of state John Kerry also brought Yemen up ahead of nuclear negotiations in Switzerland with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The US is pushing for a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers before a March 31st deadline, and officials close to the talks said some kind of preliminary agreement was possible.

Western powers fear Iran wants to build nuclear bombs, though Tehran says its atomic research is for peaceful purposes.

The powers hope to persuade Iran to scale back its nuclear activity in return for the removal of sanctions.

Phone calls

Mr RouhaniGermany

In the rare direct exchange between Paris and Tehran, France’s president François Hollande said Iran had a right to civilian nuclear power but insisted on a “lasting, robust and verifiable Iranian nuclear programme that guarantees Iran will not get an atomic weapon”. Last week officials close said France was demanding more stringent conditions than its western allies.

Mr Rouhani reiterated Tehran’s principal demand – that the most crippling sanctions be lifted immediately.

“All unjust sanctions against the Iranian nation should be lifted,” he said on Twitter. “Lifting all sanctions is the main issue that can help us reaching the final solution . . .”

Sanctions relief

British prime minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman told reporters after the call the two sides agreed it was possible to conclude a framework nuclear deal by end of March.

Mr Rouhani also spoke with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said. Mr Rouhani said on his Twitter feed he had raised military operations in Yemen launched by Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia with all four leaders.

Meanwhile, Mr Kerry and Mr Zarif met twice in Lausanne, Switzerland, after resuming negotiations aimed at clinching a nuclear deal .

Mr Kerry raised the Yemen crisis before those conversations began, a state department spokesman said, though a senior US official said the issue did not have any impact on the nuclear negotiations.

Washington and Tehran take opposing stands on Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen against Shia Houthi rebels allied to Iran, who are fighting to oust Yemen’s president.– (Reuters)