November 10, 2013 1:44:10 am
Negotiations by the United States and five other major powers on an agreement to temporarily freeze Irans nuclear programme hit a snag on Saturday,as France questioned whether the deal being drafted would do enough to curb Irans nuclear ambitions. But diplomats were struggling into the evening to see if they could overcome their differences.
After several days of optimistic reports that the negotiations with Iran could produce an agreement – the first of its kind in a decade – the marathon talks on Saturday laid bare the challenge of crafting a deal that would satisfy both the Iranians and a group of major powers with their own interests and agendas.
Signs of division among the foreign ministers meeting in Geneva first emerged when France questioned whether the proposed deal would do enough to curb the development of a nuclear reactor that would produce plutonium,or limit Irans enrichment of uranium.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said a draft of a potential agreement was unacceptable to France and there was no certainty that this round of negotiations would lead to an agreement. We are hoping for a deal,but for the moment there are still issues that have not been resolved, he told France Inter radio.
His comments came amid a whirl of diplomatic activity,with Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from Britain,France,Germany and Russia engaged in round-robin meetings with Irans foreign minister,Mohammad Javad Zarif,and the European Unions foreign policy chief,Catherine Ashton,who is overseeing the talks.
Hopes that a deal was at hand surged when Kerry cut short a trip to the Middle East to fly to Geneva on Friday. But he,too,sought to temper expectations,saying after he arrived an agreement had not yet been reached and gaps needed to be narrowed. On Saturday,Kerry made no comment before a two-hour meeting with Zarif.
While talks continued Saturday afternoon,it increasingly appeared that the negotiators would be unable to overcome gaps in this round,and officials said they hoped to return in coming weeks to try again.
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