'Significant gaps' remain in Iran talks - Kerry

2015-02-22 07:22
John Kerry. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

John Kerry. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

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Geneva - There are still "significant gaps" in negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday, warning that President Barack Obama was not prepared to extend them further.

Kerry's comments came in a stopover in London before he heads to Geneva on Sunday for two more days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran and the P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany are trying to strike a deal that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for easing economic sanctions.

Negotiations

Iran denies its nuclear programme has military goals.

Negotiators are working against the clock ahead of a 31 March deadline for agreement on the political framework of a deal.

"There are still significant gaps, there is still a distance to travel," Kerry told a press conference at the US Embassy in London.

"President Obama has no inclination whatsoever to extend these talks beyond the period that has been set out."

He added that Obama was "fully prepared to stop these talks" if necessary.

US and Iranian negotiators have been meeting in Geneva since Friday and senior P5+1 negotiators are also set to meet in the Swiss city on Sunday in a bid to drive the talks forward.

Deadlines looming

Kerry also used his London stop to stress the international community was "united" and "in lock step" over the negotiations.

"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," he said earlier in the day.

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz flew in to snow-covered Geneva on Saturday to take part in the talks for the first time, and at Kerry's request.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, was also taking part in the negotiations.

But Kerry played down any suggestion that this meant the talks were on the verge of a breakthrough.

"I would not read into it any indication whatsoever," he said, adding that Moniz was present because of the "technical" nature of the talks.

Israel's role

Negotiations have been complicated by hardliners both in Iran and the United States, as well as by Israel lobbying against a deal.

Nearly two dozen US House Democrats on Thursday urged the postponement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned 3 March speech to Congress on the threat of Iran's nuclear programme, warning the timing of the controversial address could "undermine" negotiations.

Israeli officials have also allegedly leaked purported details from the talks showing the US was moving towards softening its demands on how many of Iran's some 20 000 centrifuges it can retain.

Meanwhile, Tehran wants massively to ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges, saying it wants to make fuel for a fleet of power reactors it has yet to build.

Read more on:    john kerry  |  iran  |  us  |  iran nuclear programme

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