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US, Iran Discuss Nuclear Deal


FILE - Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting with Iranian ambassadors in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 13, 2014.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday he is in favor of reaching a nuclear deal with world powers, as long at the pact does not go against the best interests of this country.

"It is better to have no agreement than one that goes against our national interests," the Iranian leader said.

His comments, to air force personnel in Iran, came as his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich for a second day of talks on a nuclear pact.

Javad Zarif said he had "engaged in serious discussions" Sunday with Kerry about Iran's nuclear status.

Zarif said the only way to deal with Iran is through "respect and negotiation." He was critical of the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran, saying the restrictions have failed to achieve their desired result.

Concentrate on finding solution

Iran's top diplomat said it would not be "the end of the world" if a nuclear agreement is not reached with world powers, but wants to use the next six weeks to concentrate on finding a solution.

Kerry, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, said he is looking forward to a "peaceful resolution" to Iran's nuclear program.

Kerry and Zarif met for about 90 minutes on Sunday on the sidelines of the conference.

The West accuses Tehran of trying to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.

Iran and a group that includes the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are trying to reach a framework agreement by March 24 as part of their years-long effort to resolve questions about Iranian nuclear activity. They have given themselves until July 1 to agree to a final deal.

The so-called P5+1 group wants Iran to scale back its nuclear activity and ensure it is not developing nuclear weapons. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is peaceful and wants the repeal of sanctions that have hurt its economy.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "World powers and Iran are charging ahead to an agreement that would allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weaponry, something that would imperil the existence of the state of Israel."

Address to US Congress

Netanyahu is set to address the U.S. Congress on Iran's nuclear efforts next month.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez is leading an effort to impose more sanctions against Iran, but says he would hold off on his bill until after the March deadline.

“Many of my Democratic colleagues and I have sent a letter to the president," Menendez said, "telling him that we will not support passage of the Kirk-Menendez amendment on the Senate floor, until after March 24th, and only if there is no political framework agreement, because, as the letter states, we remain hopeful that diplomacy will succeed in reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability.”

Menendez said he is still skeptical that Iran truly wants to reach a deal.

U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron oppose new sanctions that they have said could jeopardize the ongoing negotiations.