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Deal with Iran moves a step closer

By Agencies in Lausanne, Switzerland | China Daily | Updated: 2015-04-02 07:45

Negotiators optimistic, but impasse remains over UN sanctions, future atomic research

Major powers and Iran were closer to a preliminary accord on reining in Teheran's nuclear program as marathon talks ran into Wednesday, but they hit an impasse over key details such as the lifting of UN sanctions and Iran's future atomic research.

The negotiators ended talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne in the early morning hours with an air of chaos as delegations scrambled to get contradictory viewpoints across.

The six powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - aim to stop Iran from gaining the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for easing international sanctions that are crippling its economy. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

As top negotiators from the powers met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif again on Wednesday, Russia and Iran expressed optimism that an initial agreement was within reach.

Zarif said the talks had been "very good", though he acknowledged that there were issues to be smoothed over.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi hailed the nuclear talks as an "important step" toward a comprehensive deal hoped to be reached by June 30.

All sides held comprehensive, thorough discussions on the focused issues, and they have narrowed the gaps to some extent, Wang told reporters on Tuesday night.

Wang said the remaining key issues were linked to each other, but that all parties must think creatively to find a common solution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who returned to Moscow, said negotiators had reached a general accord on "all key aspects."

Western diplomats said Iran had reaffirmed its "nuclear rights" on Tuesday, suggesting the talks were again getting bogged down as they entered their seventh day.

Officials cautioned that any agreement would probably be fragile and incomplete.

"We hope to wrap up the talks by Wednesday night ... We insist on lifting of financial, oil and banking sanctions immediately ... for other sanctions we need to find a framework," senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi told state television. "We insist on keeping research and development with advanced centrifuges," he said.

A preliminary deal would be a major milestone toward a final accord, with an end-of-June deadline, that could end a 12-year standoff between Iran and world powers and reduce the risk of another Middle East war.

Reuters - Xinhua


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