Iranian FM says deal on nuclear program possible this week

Iranian FM says deal on nuclear program possible this week

Mohammad Javad Zarif qualifies, however, that ‘there’s a lot of work to do’

Iran’s new Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a forum in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo)
Iran’s new Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a forum in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo)

A deal with the six world powers (P5+1) to resolve the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program could come later this week in Geneva, the Iranian foreign minister said Tuesday.

“I think it is possible to reach an accord this week, but I can only speak for my country, not for the others [the P5+1 made up of the US, Russia, the UK, China, France and Germany],” Mohammad Javad Zarif told France 24 television. “There’s a lot of work to do, we’ve made some progress… but I think we are very close to an agreement.”

Zarif’s optimistic comments coincided with an unconfirmed report by the official IRNA news agency quoting Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, as saying that Yukiya Amano will visit Tehran on November 12, a sign that talks are progressing.

Last week in Vienna, Iranian and IAEA envoys discussed Tehran’s proposals to ease Western concerns that Iran could eventually produce nuclear weapons, after which Amano said “there is some substance in the new proposal by Iran.”

However, they contrast with pessimistic remarks made Sunday by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“I am not optimistic about the outcome of the talks but… we will not be hurt by carrying out negotiations,” he said, adding that the US should not be trusted because even though the Americans “express interest” in discussions, they “keep smiling on one hand, and then immediately say they have all options on the table” — in a reference to a potential military strike on Iran.

Zarif echoed some of Khameini’s pessimism, while maintaining that Iran would enter the next round of talks in good faith.

“We have made some progress but there is a great deal of mistrust in Iran concerning the attitude, the behavior and the approach of some members of P5+1,” Zarif said, according to French news source AFP. “I believe the trust of the Iranian people must be regained. We need to enter these discussions with an open eye but in good faith. We are prepared to reach an agreement.”

Iran and the P5+1 countries are scheduled to meet for a second round of talks in Geneva November 7-8.

Last month’s meeting between the parties produced cautious optimism that a deal could be reached to limit Iranian nuclear enrichment in exchange for eased sanctions.

The talks in Geneva were focused on limiting Iranian nuclear programs that can be used both to generate power and make fissile warhead material.

The key elements of the talks are Iran’s uranium enrichment program and its plutonium heavy-water facility. Western nations argue that the 20 percent enriched uranium and the plutonium Iran is producing are not necessary for generating nuclear power and therefore must be halted with all such material removed from the country.

Israel has called for enrichment to cease completely, saying even low-grade uranium could be made suitable for a nuclear weapon in a short time with enough centrifuges running.

Iran says it has no nuclear arms and denies working toward them, claiming all its atomic activities are peaceful. While the talks with the IAEA and the P5+1 are formally separate, they are linked by concerns over Iran’s nuclear aspirations, and progress in one may result in advances in the other.

The diplomatic atmosphere between Iran and Western powers improved following the August installation of President Hassan Rouhani who is considered more moderate than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the United Nations General Assembly meetings at the beginning of September Iranian officials, including Rouhani, held ground-breaking meetings with Western leaders after years of diplomatic severance.

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