Saturday 21 October 2017

Iran nuclear deal 'a step closer' as talks set to be extended

David Blair Geneva

Negotiators from Iran and the leading Western powers were close to resolving a vital dispute over Tehran's "right" to enrich uranium last night as they prepared to extend their talks into a fourth day.

Iran's insistence that any agreement must allow its experts to carry out this process had been a key sticking point in the negotiations in Geneva.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, said a way had been found to overcome this problem. Any agreement would not refer explicitly to enrichment, but to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which Iran interprets as giving it the right to use this technology. "Both sides won," wrote Mr Parsi in an email. "The two sides are now one step closer to a deal."

However, there remains a second key dispute over a new plutonium reactor at Arak. The US and its allies want Iran to stop building the facility, fearing it could provide another route to nuclear weapons capability.

Baroness Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign policy, was locked in talks with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, on the third – and supposedly final – day of talks.

A diplomat close to the negotiations predicted the meeting would continue into the weekend, adding that all sides were concerned over "how long the window will stay open".

Ms Ashton briefed senior diplomats from the "P5 plus 1" contact group, consisting of the five permanent members of the Security Council – America, Britain, France, Russia and China – along with Germany.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, arrived in Geneva last night, leading to suggestions that John Kerry, the US secretary of state, might follow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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