Iranian FM: Nuclear deal is ‘very likely’
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Iranian FM: Nuclear deal is ‘very likely’

Zarif says Iran doesn’t want to ‘dominate region,’ regional states’ panic over emerging accord unnecessary

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, attends a public event at New York University on April 29, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR)
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, attends a public event at New York University on April 29, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 world powers on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program was “very likely.”

“An agreement is very likely — provided that our negotiation partners mean it seriously,” Zarif told Der Spiegel in an interview, excerpts of which were published Friday by Reuters.

“Some people in the region are evidently panicking,” he said — in an apparent reference to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states who vehemently oppose the emerging deal — adding there was no reason to do so. “We don’t want to dominate the region. We are happy with our size and geography,” he said.

The quotes from the interview were published a day after US President Barack Obama tried assuring Arab allies that they will be safe from the threat of an empowered Tehran after the deal is finalized. Obama seeks to shore up some of America’s most critical security partnerships.

After a rare Camp David summit, the president on Thursday pledged Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to the Sunni governments of the Persian Gulf and even spoke of authorizing US military force if their security is endangered by Shiite Iran or anyone else. The United States, he vowed, will “use all elements of power to secure our core interests in the Gulf region, and to deter and confront external aggression against our allies and partners.”

Obama invoked the start of a “new era of cooperation” that would last for decades to come, even as Saudi Arabia and others in the region are deeply unnerved by the prospect of an accord with Iran that would impose a decade-long freeze on its nuclear program and potentially provide it tens of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions.

The Sunni governments came to Washington looking for assurances that Obama would pair his diplomatic effort with a broader strategy to push back against Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East.

Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu has long been an opponent of a deal with Iran that does not completely remove the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment capabilities. Iran and world powers led by the US reached understandings in Lausanne, Switzerland in April that curb Tehran’s enrichment capabilities but do not remove them completely.

Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and geared toward the production of medical isotopes. Israel has repeatedly claimed the Iranian nuclear facilities far exceed what is necessary for the production of isotopes and that the country is hiding a covert military nuclear program.

— AP contributed to this report.

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