Iran Nuke Talks Hit Crunch Time 03/30 06:17
Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program entered a critical phase on Monday
with differences still remaining less than two days before a deadline for the
outline of an agreement.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program
entered a critical phase on Monday with differences still remaining less than
two days before a deadline for the outline of an agreement.
With the March 31 target fast approaching, the top diplomats from the five
permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany and Iran were meeting
to try to bridge remaining gaps and hammer out the framework deal that would be
the basis for a final accord to be reached by the end of June.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad
Javad Zarif, have been meeting in the Swiss town of Lausanne since Thursday in
an intense effort to reach a political understanding on terms that would curb
Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Officials say the sides have made some progress, with Iran considering
demands for further cuts to its uranium enrichment program but pushing back on
how long it must limit technology it could use to make atomic arms. In addition
to sticking points on research and development, differences remain on the
timing and scope of sanctions removal, the officials said.
And, in a sign that a deal is unlikely on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov will leave the talks, just a day after arriving, to return to
Moscow for previously planned meetings, according to his spokeswoman Maria
Zarakhova. Lavrov will return to Lausanne on Tuesday if there is a realistic
chance for a deal, she said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Sunday it was up to the Iranians
to make the choice to accept what has been presented to them.
By accepting the restrictions, the Iranians would "live up to their rhetoric
that they are not trying to acquire a nuclear weapon," he said in Washington on
ABC's "This Week."
The officials in Lausanne said the sides were advancing on limits to aspects
of Iran's program to enrich uranium, which can be used to make the core of a
Tehran has said it is willing to address concerns about its stockpiles of
enriched uranium, although it has denied that will involve shipping it out of
the country, as some western officials have said. One official said on Monday
that Iran might deal with the issue by diluting its stocks to a level that
would not be weapons grade.
A senior State Department official said that shipping the stockpile is one
of the "viable options that have been under discussion for months ... but
resolution is still being discussed."
Uranium enrichment has been the chief concern in over more than a decade of
international attempts to cap Iran's nuclear programs. But a Western official
said the main obstacles to a deal were no longer enrichment-related but instead
the type and length of restrictions on Tehran's research and development of
advanced centrifuges and the pace of sanctions-lifting.
Both demanded anonymity --- the State Department official in line with U.S.
briefing rules and the Western official because he was not authorized to
discuss the emerging deal.
Over the past weeks, Iran has moved from demanding that it be allowed to
keep nearly 10,000 centrifuges enriching uranium, to agreeing to 6,000. The
officials said Tehran now may be ready to accept even fewer.
Tehran says it wants to enrich only for energy, science, industry and
medicine. But many countries fear Iran could use the technology to make