The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Nation & World

November 23, 2013

Report: Iran nuclear talks down to fine print stage

GENEVA — An Iran nuclear deal within reach, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and five other foreign ministers focused Saturday on the fine print of a draft agreement meant to satisfy not only the other side, but also to placate powerful domestic forces that fear giving too much for too little in return.

Diplomats refused to spell out details of the talks, held in a five-star Geneva hotel. But comments from both sides suggested negotiations focused on detailed wording that could be key in shaping an agreement that both sides could live with.

Even though diplomats were said to be close to a deal after four days of talks, they also warned against expectations that a final agreement was imminent due to the complexity of the issues and the stakes for all sides.

The goal is to hammer out an agreement to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months, while offering the Iranians limited relief from crippling economic sanctions. If the interim deal holds, the parties would negotiate final-stage agreements to ensure Iran does not build nuclear weapons.

Only then would the most crippling sanctions on Iranian oil sales and financial transactions be rolled back.

"There are narrow gaps, but they are important gaps," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said about the drafting process. Iran's Fars news agency quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying "the dispute is over the wording" but he was unsure when a deal might be final.

An agreement would cap nearly a decade of inconclusive international efforts to halt Iran's expanding nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes and not aimed at building nuclear weapons.

A deal would build on the momentum of the historic dialogue opened during September's annual U.N. gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between President Barack Obama and Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, after three decades of U.S.-Iranian estrangement.

For the U.S. and its five partners, the chief concern is uranium enrichment.

Since it was revealed in 2003, Iran's enrichment program has grown from a few dozen enriching centrifuges to more than 18,000 installed and over 10,000 operating. The machines have produced tons of low-enriched uranium, which can be turned into weapons grade material.

Iran also has stockpiled almost 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be converted more quickly to fissile warhead material than the low-enriched uranium. Its supply is nearly enough for one bomb.

Based on comments from diplomats, the talks on Saturday appear to have included ways Iran could retain some level of enrichment, although at a level far below what's need for weapons.

While saying they are ready for compromise, the Iranians are mindful of criticism from hard-liners back home who oppose dealings with the United States.

Statements on Saturday by senior Iranian negotiators appeared to be an attempt to defuse domestic opposition to a deal that skeptics see as surrendering their country's nuclear sovereignty.

"I assure Iranians enrichment will never stop," Iran's state TV quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Abbas Zarif as saying. "Iran opposes any demands restricting its rights.'"

The Iranians also are holding out for maximum relief from economic sanctions. The United States and its partners want to relax sanctions in small, incremental steps during the six months of an interim agreement but not remove them entirely pending a final stage deal.

Issues were believed to include the level of sanctions relief and the future of a plutonium reactor under construction at Arak that the six want closed. Plutonium can also be used to make nuclear weapons.

With the talks already running two days over schedule, it was unclear whether the negotiations would continue Sunday. Kerry's spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said he still planned to travel to London on Sunday for meetings on other Middle East issues.

Kerry and his counterparts from Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany joined the Geneva talks after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and top European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton reported progress on enrichment and other issues Friday.

Their participation raised speculation that an agreement was close — an interpretation that the foreign ministers themselves sought to discourage.

"We're not here because things are necessarily finished," Britain's Hague told reporters. "We're here because they're difficult, and they remain difficult."

The U.S. administration has not confirmed details of what concessions on economic sanctions it might offer. But a member of Congress and legislative aides have said the White House was considering releasing about $6 billion to $10 billion in Iranian funds frozen in foreign banks.

Iran would also be allowed to sell petrochemicals and be supplied with auto parts to revive its car industry and exports of automobiles to parts of Asia. The aides and the member of Congress demanded anonymity because they weren't authorized to divulge the estimate publicly.

A senior U.S. official told reporters last week that Iran is losing $5 billion a month in lost oil sales alone and $120 billion in total from all sanctions since their imposition, although he did not give a time frame. The official demanded anonymity in keeping with rules established by the U.S. administration.

The U.S. administration is keen to keep rollbacks limited to placate influential members of U.S. Congress who argue that pressure has brought Iran to the negotiating table and cannot be relaxed until Tehran offers significant concessions.

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • Plane crashes in Taiwan, 47 trapped, feared dead

    A plane landing in stormy weather crashed outside an airport on a small Taiwanese island late Wednesday, and a transport minister said 47 people were trapped and feared dead.

    July 23, 2014

  • US pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages

     Israeli troops battled Hamas militants on Wednesday near a southern Gaza Strip town as the U.S. secretary of state reported progress in efforts to broker a truce in the conflict that has so far killed at least 657 Palestinians and 31 Israelis.

    July 23, 2014

  • Bodies of Malaysia jet victims leave Ukraine

    Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash left the embattled plains of eastern Ukraine Wednesday, and pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets as fighting flared in the region.

    July 23, 2014

  • Perdue defeats Kingston in Georgia Senate runoff

    Businessman David Perdue has defeated longtime Rep. Jack Kingston in the Republican runoff for Georgia's U.S. Senate nomination, setting up a nationally significant general election matchup against Democrat Michelle Nunn.

    July 22, 2014

  • New arrest linked to gun used after Boston attacks

    A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is believed to have provided the handgun used to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer during the manhunt, people with knowledge of the investigation said Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    A Central California company is recalling specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots sold nationwide over concerns of possible listeria contamination.

    July 22, 2014

  • Obama nominee McDonald pledges to 'transform' VA

    President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs pledged Tuesday to transform the beleaguered agency, saying that "systematic failures" must be addressed.

    July 22, 2014

  • Obamacare hit by ruling, but subsidies to continue

    President Barack Obama's health care law is enmeshed in another big legal battle after two federal appeals courts issued contradictory rulings on a key financing issue within hours of each other Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • US airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear

    Two U.S. airlines cancelled all flights to Israel until further notice, after a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

    July 22, 2014

  • Detroit retirees back pension cuts by a landslide

    A year after filing for bankruptcy, Detroit is building momentum to get out, especially after workers and retirees voted in favor of major pension changes just a few weeks before a judge holds a crucial trial that could end the largest public filing in U.S. history.

    July 22, 2014

More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium