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Iran Nuclear Talks Intensify Ahead of March 31 Deadline

  • Pamela Dockins

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of Germany, Britain and France will meet in Paris on Saturday to discuss the status of talks with Iran, ahead of the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement.

The meeting comes as Kerry wraps up a weeklong trip that has focused largely on concerns about Iran nuclear negotiations.

In the Middle East, Kerry assured Gulf state officials in Saudi Arabia that even as world powers engage in nuclear talks with Iran, the U.S. will not lose sight of Iran’s other “destabilizing actions” — as he called them — in places like Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

“Obviously, the outcome of these negotiations will be of major consequence to the United States, yes, but really to the entire world, and particularly to this region,” said Kerry.

In a briefing with Kerry, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal cited concerns that include reports of Iran’s involvement in efforts to fight Islamic State militants in neighboring Iraq. “Iran is taking over the country,” he said.

Gulf ministers may also have been left jittery by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings about an Iran nuclear deal, in his speech to the U.S. Congress.

“This deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That’s why this deal is so bad. It does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It paves Iran’s path to a bomb," said Netanyahu.

As Netanyahu issued his warning, Kerry and other officials were meeting in Switzerland, discussing a nuclear deal with Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

World powers negotiating with Iran are hoping for a deal by the end of June that would limit Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran is seeking relief from crippling international sanctions.

Ultimately, both sides are seeking balance, said the Arms Control Association's Kelsey Davenport.

“What the question really is finding the right combination of factors that allow the P5 + 1 [five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany] to say ‘look, we’ve pushed Iran back from the brink.' We have sufficient time to detect and deter any movement of nuclear weapons,” said Davenport

And it is a matter of how much Iran is willing to compromise, said nuclear analyst James Acton. “I think the big question in this case is how much room the Iranian side has to make concessions.”

U.S. and Iranian negotiators are expected to meet again on March 15.

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