When Secretary of State John Kerry cut short a trip to the Middle East on Friday to head to Geneva for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, it set up expectations that a historic deal may have been at hand.
Today, reality set in and as NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports from Geneva, while diplomats describe the talks as “intense,” it’s still not clear whether Iran and the so-called P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S. plus Germany) would reach a resolution today.
Peter says at the moment France is the one taking a hard line. He sent this report to our Newscast unit:
“Traditionally Tehran and Washington have been viewed as occupying opposite poles in these talks, but diplomats say French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is the one warning about accepting “a fool’s deal” at this stage.
“British Foreign Secretary William Hague says a lot of work has been done, but gaps remain:
“‘It’s certainly not possible to say that we can be sure there will be a deal at the end of today,’ Hague said.
“At issue, apparently, are Iran’s stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium and a heavy-water reactor being built at Arak. Iranian officials are signaling that if there’s no agreement today they will leave and return for another round in the near future.”
The sides are trying to hammer out a deal that freezes Iran’s nuclear program for six months, while they seek a longer-term deal. The New York Times reports that Iran is asking for an easing of U.S. sanctions. The U.S. and France are at odds over just what a freeze would mean for Tehran.
The Times reports:
“At issue is how aggressively to prevent the facility from being completed and started up. Under a compromise favored by the United States, Iran might agree to refrain from operating the facility for the six months of an interim deal, while continuing to work on the installation. But once the facility is operational, as early as next year, it will be very difficult to disable, since a military strike would ignite the plutonium inside.”