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Iranian Nuclear Talks Extended

Source: RFE/RL

Talks on easing international concerns over Iran's nuclear program enter a third day on November 9. Officials from Iran and six world powers known as the P5+1 -- the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany -- were originally scheduled to meet in Geneva for two days, but talks have been extended amid signs of progress.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was upbeat after talks involving US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on November 8.
(photo by Mohammad Reza Alimadadi, Islamic Republic News Agency)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Geneva to join the talks on November 9, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected later in the day.

However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told journalists that there is "no certainty" a deal could be reached. He said France has not accepted the initial draft of an accord and that the concerns of Israel must be taken into account.

Also on November 9, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told journalists in Geneva that "the negotiations have made good progress" but that "there are still important issues to resolve."

"We are going to give a lot of time and attention to those issues during the course of today and there is no fixed time for us to reach a conclusion," he added.

Amid rising hopes, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the negotiations on November 8 as did Hague, Fabius, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

A senior U.S. State Department official in Geneva told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on November 8 that the talks that day "continued to make progress" but that there was "still more work to do."

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said a five-hour meeting with Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had been productive but that much work remained to reach a deal.

The six world powers are reportedly ready to ease some sanctions on Iran if Tehran takes clear steps to halt the advance of its nuclear program.

Tehran denies it is secretly developing nuclear weapons, as the West suspects.

Earlier on November 8, Kerry stressed that important gaps needed to be bridged.

"I want to emphasize there are still some very important issues on the table that are unresolved," he said. "It is important for those to be properly, thoroughly addressed. I want to emphasize there is not an agreement at this point in time but the P5 is working hard."

One of those differences was spelled out by a member of Iran's negotiating team.

Majid Takt-Ravanchi told Iran's Mehr news agency that oil and banking sanctions imposed on Tehran should be eased during the first phase of any deal.

Israeli officials have expressed concern over the reported deal on the table in Geneva.

On November 8, the White House said President Barack Obama talked by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ease those fears.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu warned that Iran would be getting "the deal of the century" if they carried out proposals to grant Tehran limited, temporary sanctions relief in exchange for a partial suspension of its nuclear program and a pledge not to expand it.

Iran and the powers are discussing a partial nuclear suspension deal covering around half a year.

Analysts say reaching a preliminary deal would be just one step of a longer process aimed at a permanent agreement.

The talks in Geneva are the second such encounter since Hassan Rohani took office as president of Iran in August.

He has since pushed for the lifting of sanctions and for improving relations with the West.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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