Iran and EU inch closer to putting nuclear deal into action
Iran and world power representatives agreed Friday on how to implement a landmark deal on containing Tehran's nuclear programme, but stamps of approval from each country are still needed before it can take effect.
"We found solutions for all the points of disagreement," Iran's deputy chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi told Iranian state-run TV.
Negotiators have said they want to implement the groundbreaking November 24 deal, which aims to rein in Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for some sanctions relief, by January 20.
But Araqchi stressed Friday that although differences on how to put it into action had been ironed out, "the implementation of the Geneva agreement depends on the final ratification of the capitals".
He also would not confirm that the target implementation date remained January 20, stressing that too would be decided by the each country's government.
Araqchi's comments came at the end of a second and final day of meetings in Geneva with Helga Schmid, deputy to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, whose office represents the so-called P5+1 group of world powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.
They had painstakingly pored over three outstanding issues, repeatedly breaking off discussions so Schmid could consult with each of the six countries she represented, Araqchi told Iranian TV Thursday evening.
He did not reveal which issues had been debated.
During the first day of talks, the pair also met with top US nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman, who provided "views and information that was useful to discussions to address any remaining issues to the agreement to the joint plan of action," the State Department said late Thursday.
Sherman, who travelled on to Moscow Friday, also held a brief meeting with Iran.
Western powers and Israel fear Iran is seeking to develop the atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, but Tehran has always denied this.
Under the November deal, Iran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for receiving modest relief from international sanctions and a promise by Western powers not to impose new measures against its hard-hit economy.
Technical experts from both sides have since November held several sessions in Geneva aimed at fine-tuning the deal.
But when experts held four days of talks last month in Vienna -- home of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- the Iranians walked out after Washington expanded its sanctions blacklist against Tehran.
The latest round of talks in Geneva came as Iranian leaders voiced concerns at the slow pace of implementation.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani warned in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Thursday against "seeking excuses that would create problems in the negotiation process," Iran's ISNA news agency reported.
He also called on "certain countries ... to respect their own commitments (under the Geneva deal) and avoid new strictures that would shadow their goodwill".
Some observers had warned a new generation of nuclear centrifuges, which could potentially enable Iran to rapidly purify uranium to a weapons-grade level, might prove a hurdle to rolling out the agreement.
Two weeks ago, Iran's atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran was "testing third and fourth generations of its centrifuges," almost five times more effective that the current ones.
A Vienna-based diplomat told AFP on Thursday that the November plan "wasn't that specific" on the issue, meaning it is "open to interpretation by both sides".
The interim deal is meant to buy time for diplomacy to clinch a lasting agreement to allay Western suspicions that Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons.
© 2014 AFP