The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Breaking News

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
Breaking News
  • news_ukraineprotests.jpg Deal reached on calming Ukraine tensions

    Top diplomats from the United States, European Union, Russia and Ukraine reached agreement after marathon talks Thursday on immediate steps to ease the crisis in Ukraine.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_target.jpg Cyber cops: Target hackers may take years to find

    Secret Service investigators say they are close to gaining a full understanding of the methods hackers used to breach Target's computer systems last December.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Evacuation came too late for many on sinking ferry

     An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday.

    April 17, 2014

  • 3 protesters killed in attack on Ukrainian base

    The turmoil in Ukraine dominated the European landscape Thursday, as three protesters were killed in a clash in southern Ukraine, high-level talks were held in Geneva and Vladimir Putin weighed in on his neighbor's future for hours from Moscow.

    April 17, 2014

  • news_marathonsecurity.jpg Boston Marathon organizers confident of safe race

    The arrest of a man with a rice cooker in his backpack near the Boston Marathon finish line led police to step up patrols Wednesday, while organizers sought to assure the city and runners of a safe race next week.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_diabetescomplications.jpg Study: Diabetic heart attacks and strokes falling

    In the midst of the diabetes epidemic, a glimmer of good news: Heart attacks, strokes and other complications from the disease are plummeting.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_skoreaferry.jpg Fears rise for missing in South Korea ferry sinking

    Fears rose Thursday for the fate of 289 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_ukraineprotests.jpg Pro-Russian gunmen make inroads in eastern Ukraine

    The well-armed, Moscow-backed insurgency sowing chaos in eastern Ukraine scored a new victory Wednesday, seizing armored vehicles and weapons from underequipped government forces, then rolling through two cities to a hero’s welcome.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_detroitsunset.jpg Detroit still needs $350M from state lawmakers

    Pressure was building Wednesday for Michigan lawmakers to commit $350 million to Detroit pensions, a day after the city reached tentative agreements with pension funds and a retiree group to reduce payouts.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - HB0408 - Crash Sperrys 2 Family, friends bid farewell to Jesse Sperry

    The fussing of 10-day-old Autumn Marie Sperry seemed to coincide with the beginning of the funeral service for her father, Jesse Sperry, whose body rested just a few feet away. More than 200 friends and family members gathered at Edgewood Baptist Church this afternoon to pay their respects to Jesse, who was killed April 6 in a traffic accident on Indiana 32.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
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
Front page
Poll

How well do you monitor your child's use of social media?

I do a good job
I check occasionally
Not well at all
     View Results