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Nuclear talks eye-catching as deal in the cards

Updated: 2013-11-09 17:34
( Xinhua)

GENEVA - The world is eager to see what comes of the larger-than-ever possibility of a deal between the world heavyweights and Iran on the latter's nuclear program.

Delegates from Iran and the six countries of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States will continue talks on Saturday in Geneva after the planned two-day session failed to satisfy ambitious negotiators.

On Thursday, the White House said the six countries would consider offering limited sanction relief if Iran takes concrete steps to halt its nuclear activities.

Some Western countries and Israel believe that Tehran's nuclear program has a military dimension while Iran says it is for peaceful use of nuclear energy only.

US President Barack Obama is said to be seeking a pause in slapping additional sanctions on Iran by Congress and has hinted "modest relief" to existing ones, should Tehran reciprocate.

The reconciliatory stance of Washington, partly a reward for Iran's diplomatic approaches adopted by new President Hassan Rouhani, is also seen as a turn in the world's sole superpower's unfruitful diplomacy in years.

On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry hurried from Jerusalem to Geneva to join the nuclear talks at the invitation of his European Union counterpart, Catherine Ashton, who is upbeat about a breakthrough.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German and French Foreign Ministers Guido Westerwelle and Laurent Fabius are also making unscheduled trips to Geneva to join the talks, raising the hope that an interim deal could be made.

Despite widespread optimism, it is clear that world powers have set Iran's concession as the prerequisite of theirs, making Tehran's position crucial.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was obviously not as optimistic. "Nobody should think of our negotiating team as compromisers," he said earlier this week.

Rouhani, a moderate, was also cautious. It would be wrong to expect sanction relief any time soon, he said, as any deal would go through bureaucracy in Iran. "But it does not mean that we do not have any hope for a solution," Rouhani said.

Abbas Araqchi, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator now in Geneva, said it was less likely for a final document to be signed, but the issuance of a joint statement would be possible.

Meanwhile, as Iranian media reported Friday that the six powers had accepted Iran's proposal to halt some of its nuclear activities, the world does have some reasons to believe that breakthroughs are truly in the cards.

The loudest rejection to a deal comes from Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday warned against awarding Iran "the deal of the century".

"They got everything they wanted and gave nothing. They'll get a decrease in sanctions but they won't reduce their enrichment capabilities."

"I hear that the Iranians are walking in Geneva with a smile on their faces, and they have good reason for it."

Israel, which believes that Iran is on the brink of obtaining a nuclear bomb, seizes every opportunity to urge world powers to compel Iran to fully dismantle its nuclear weapon program.

Israeli leaders are worried about the Geneva talks and are advocating the idea of preemptive strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities.