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Diplomats head to Geneva for Iran talks

Updated: 2013-11-09 08:05
By Agencies in Geneva ( China Daily)

Western diplomats rushed to Geneva on Friday in the hopes of sealing a landmark deal on Teheran's nuclear program.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was the first to announce he was joining negotiations with Iran in Geneva, followed by the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany.

But officials warned that the talks could still unravel, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius insisting there was no final deal yet.

"We want a deal that will be the first substantive response to concerns over Iran's nuclear program," Fabius said in a statement on his arrival in Geneva. "There has been progress but nothing has been agreed yet."

Russia said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would not attend the meeting.

The talks that started on Thursday have raised hopes of the first breakthrough in a decade in limiting Iran's uranium enrichment efforts, which the West suspects are aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has repeatedly denied this, saying its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity and for medical purposes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday he believed a deal could be reached "before we close these negotiations" and that the two sides were expected to begin drafting a joint statement early on Friday.

Officials say the proposed deal could see - as a first step - Teheran freeze its nuclear efforts for as long as six months in exchange for some relief from the sanctions that have battered its economy.

Negotiators would then have time to work out a more comprehensive deal that Teheran hopes could be in place within a year.

Kerry was en route to Geneva after stopping off for a difficult meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the tarmac of Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

But Netanyahu rejected out of hand a mooted deal between world powers and Iran, saying Iran would be getting "the deal of the century" in the talks between Teheran and six powers.

"Israel utterly rejects it and what I am saying is shared by many in the region, whether or not they express that publicly," Netanyahu said before meeting with Kerry.

"Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to defend itself and its people."

Israel has repeatedly warned that it might strike Iran if it did not halt the nuclear program, accusing Teheran of seeking to build atomic weapons. Iran says its various nuclear facilities are geared only for civilian needs.


(China Daily 11/09/2013 page8)