Iran’s chief negotiator warned Thursday of a lingering “lack of trust” and “major differences” at nuclear talks with world powers in Geneva, saying it was hampering progress over a deal.
Abbas Araqchi, a deputy foreign minister, said Iran would not sign up to an agreement on its controversial nuclear program unless the so-called P5+1 group accepts what Tehran considers its right to enrich uranium.
“No deal that does not include the right to uranium enrichment – from first (step) to final (step) – will be accepted,” Araqchi said on his Twitter account.
The remarks came as political directors from the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany resumed talks with Iranian negotiators in the Swiss city over a deal that had seemed within reach in early November.
“The main obstacle is the lack of trust because of what happened at the last round,” Araqchi told state television, referring to last minute toughening of terms to a mooted accord in the previous round of talks.
“As long as trust is not restored, we cannot continue constructive negotiations,” Araqchi said. “But that doesn’t mean that we will stop negotiations.”
Thursday’s second day of the latest round of talks was to focus the draft of a landmark deal that would partially curb Iran’s nuclear work in exchange for limited sanctions relief.
Western powers and Israel claim Iran’s nuclear work is masking military objectives, something Tehran vehemently denies.
Araqchi said – without elaborating – that there are still “major differences” between the two sides and hinted at a “difficult task” ahead.
But he expressed hope for “a deal by tomorrow (Friday)” and called for his counterparts to be “flexible.”
According to Araqchi, discussion over the “right” to enrich was out of the question but Iran would be open to negotiate the level of enrichment, where it is conducted and its stockpile.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final call on Iran’s nuclear decisions, warned on Wednesday that he would not retreat “one step from the rights of the Iranian nation.”
And diplomats in Geneva said the talks would be tough and might still fail.
Araqchi meanwhile stressed Iran would not “enter discussions on content” unless the P5+1 “speaks with one voice.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed Israel would never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
“I pledge Iran will not get a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu, who has threatened military action against Tehran, said in a speech to leaders of Russia’s Jewish community in Moscow.
Israel is widely suspected of being the only nuclear power in the Middle East.
(AFP, Al-Akhbar, Reuters)