The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 9, 2013

Talks over Iran's disputed nuke program hit a snag

GENEVA — Talks on a deal to temporarily curb Iran's nuclear program ran into trouble Saturday when France questioned whether the proposal went far enough, casting doubt an agreement could be reached during the current round of negotiations.

Chances of bridging all differences diminished as the day went on.

A Western diplomat in Geneva for the talks told The Associated Press it appeared that a new round of negotiations would be needed to agree on all points of a startup deal meant to lead to a comprehensive agreement ensuring that Tehran's nuclear work remains peaceful.

He said preparations were being made by both sides for an announcement later in the day of a new meeting within a few weeks. He said earlier that the French were holding out for conditions on the Iranians tougher than those agreed to by the U.S. and France's other negotiating partners, diminishing hopes of a done deal Saturday.

Comments by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif increased skepticism that the two sides would agree on the full contours of a first-step deal at the current negotiating round.

"There are differences," Zarif told Iranian state TV, adding that if open questions remained after Saturday, the talks would reconvene within a week to 10 days.

But the current talks in Geneva were still underway late Saturday, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany and Russia meeting with one another, and some with Zarif. Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Baodong Li also arrived Friday evening.

The foreign ministers of the seven delegations discussing Iran convened a meeting late Saturday night, and the Iranian officials were not included.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke of "several points that ... we're not satisfied with compared to the initial text," telling France-Inter Radio his nation does not want to be part of a "con game."

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