U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are meeting in Vienna Wednesday to discuss international efforts to limit Iran's nuclear program.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during their July 2014 meeting in Vienna
Kerry and Zarif will be joined by European Union representative Cathy Ashton, who has been leading efforts by Germany, Russia, England, France, China, and the United States to convince Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.
A senior State Department official traveling with Kerry said, “There is enough time to get the technical work done if everyone can make the decisions they need to.”
In a televised address late Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a settlement “can be achieved” by next month’s deadline, November 24.
"Step by step," Kerry said as the talks began.
Among the significant gaps that remain in these talks are questions of how much uranium Iran will be allowed to enrich to what level of purity. That would determine how long it would take Iran to develop a nuclear weapon should it decide to do so.
Iran has long said its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes, and it does not intend to build atomic weapons.
But U.S. and European leaders believe Tehran has engaged in a covert program to build such devices.
Decisions to make
The senior State Department official said there are “fundamental decisions that Iranians have to make” on this issue as international negotiators “have been creative” in trying to shutdown Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon.
“Creative does not equal concessions,” the official said, criticizing “intentional misperceptions” about the course of these negotiations by those who the official said “might not like what we are doing.”
Despite differences with Russia over its support for separatists in Ukraine, on the issue of these nuclear talks officials say the six nations engaged here have remained “remarkably united.”
Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the issue in Paris Tuesday, with both men saying they believe there could be agreement over the next five weeks.
Zarif and Ashton will remain in Vienna Thursday for talks with political directors from the six countries negotiating this deal.
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