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US, Iran Report 'Some Progress' at Nuclear Talks


Nuclear Negotiators Press Ahead Despite Uncertainty
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The United States and Iran reported they made "some progress" Monday in their negotiations on Tehran's nuclear program but said that a deal is still a long way off.

Both sides described a second day of talks in Geneva between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as "serious, useful and constructive." But Zarif told Iran's Fars news agency that "there is a long way to reach a final agreement."

A senior U.S. State Department official said two sides sharpened the issues yet to be resolved, but that whether they reach an agreement "remains to be seen."

The two sides are trying to meet a self-imposed March 31 deadline to reach a framework accord, with a July 1 deadline for a permanent deal that would ensure Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful in exchange for lifting Western economic sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

A new round of talks was set for next Monday in Switzerland.

The United States and five other world powers are trying to end the possibility that Tehran could develop a nuclear weapon, while Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

Amount of uranium at issue

The talks between Iran and Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and the U.S. center on the amount of uranium Tehran will be allowed to enrich, the number of centrifuges it can operate and how fast economic sanctions against Tehran will be lifted.

Zarif and Kerry were joined in Geneva by Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called it discriminatory that the nine countries in the world known or believed to have nuclear capability want to exclude Iran from joining the group.

"Why do the irrational pressures (against Iran's nuclear program) still continue?" he asked. "The response should be found in the efforts by members of the club of science and technology owners who seek to prevent access of other countries to this club.

"This domineering behavior is an obvious instance of imposing scientific discrimination. Any other developing country could become target of such behavior, too," Rouhani said.

P5+1 remain united

Kerry said the six countries negotiating with Iran remain united.

"There is absolutely no divergence whatsoever in what we believe is necessary for Iran to prove that its nuclear program is going to be peaceful in the future," he said.

The latest talks come as the United Nations nuclear agency said last week it remains concerned about the possible existence of “undisclosed nuclear-related activities” in Iran that could include work linked to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.

But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran is in compliance with some provisions of a nuclear agreement.

Iranian state media reports quote Iran's IAEA ambassador, Reza Najafi, as saying the findings show his country’s “full transparency” and the peaceful nature of its program.