US, Iran still hopeful for deal in Geneva nuclear talks

Iran FM: 90% of issues resolved so far in talks; US Secretary of State Kerry is tentatively planning to join negotiations in Switzerland, though no official confirmation, diplomats say; Russian FM Lavrov arrives in Geneva.

Iran nuclear talks delegate at table 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool )
Iran nuclear talks delegate at table 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool )
Iran and the US remained hopeful on Friday that talks between the Islamic Republic and world powers in Geneva would result in an agreement despite difficulties faced by negotiators to agree upon terms under which Tehran would curb its disputed nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from international sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Negotiators appeared closer towards clinching an elusive interim deal, with diplomats saying a major sticking point may have been overcome.
A compromise deal over Iran's insistence that its "right" to enrich uranium be internationally recognized has been proposed, they said, possibly opening the way to a breakthrough in intensive negotiations that began in Geneva on Wednesday.
The United States and other Western powers say there is no such thing as a right to enrich - a process that can yield both electricity and nuclear bombs - but Iran views it as a matter of national sovereignty and crucial to any deal that would resolve a decade-old standoff over its nuclear intentions.
Tehran remained adamant that any deal brokered with the international powers recognizes its "right" to enrich uranium.
"Enrichment is a right that Iran will not withdraw from in any nuclear negotiation with the 5+1," Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
"The Islamic Republic's enrichment program will be a major part in any solution and any negotiation," Iran's Fars News Agency quoted him as saying.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Friday that Washington was still hopeful about the process.
After four bilateral talks between Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton, the chief Iranian negotiator told reporters that the "talks have now entered serious stages, and when the negotiations are serious, there are many ups and downs," Fars quoted him as saying.
However, on the third day of the most recent round of negotiations, the Iranian diplomat placed responsibility on the six world powers to advance the talks further.
Zarif reportedly said world powers and Iran had agreed on Friday upon 90-percent of issues about the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program in talks in Geneva, according to Iran's Press TV.
“If you’re asking about the amount of work that has been done, we have moved forward up to 90 percent,” the Iranian diplomat allegedly told reporters in Switzerland.
Accord to Press TV, Zarif said negotiators were now seeking to resolve only "one to two issues".
"Progress depends on how ready the delegations (of the six world powers) are to reach a solution. If they are ready, attaining the result will be possible," Fars quoted him as saying.
Disagreement over whether Iran has the right under international law to enrich uranium goes to the heart of the decade-old dispute over its nuclear program and has held up diplomacy to end the standoff.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Geneva on Friday evening and planned to participate, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. "I can confirm that we are staying Friday and Saturday. That is the plan," she told reporters. Zakharova did not rule out Lavrov staying even longer.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomats close to the talks said foreign ministers from the six powers would come to Geneva if negotiators were close to reaching an interim deal.
In another sign the sides could be edging towards an agreement, Western diplomats said US Secretary of State John Kerry was tentatively planning to join the high-stakes talks in Switzerland although he had yet to confirm his plans.