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Iran close to preliminary nuclear deal with world powers

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Iran and the world powers appeared headed Friday towards a preliminary nuclear deal that would see some of its atomic activities lifted in exchange for a limited removal of sanctions stifling its economy.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state TV that the six - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - “clearly said that they accept the proposed framework by Iran.” He later told CNN that he thinks negotiators at the table are now “ready to start drafting” an accord that outlines specific steps to be taken, Associated Press reported.

Though Araghchi described the negotiations as “very difficult,” he told Iranian state TV that he expected agreement on details by Friday, the last scheduled round of the current talks.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva on Friday in an effort to help secure a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

“Secretary Kerry will travel to Geneva, Switzerland on Friday at the invitation of EU High Representative (Catherine) Ashton in an effort to help narrow differences in negotiations,” the official said, according to Reuters.

In an interview with NBC News on Thursday U.S. President Barack Obama that an interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program would provide Iran only “very modest relief” from the sanctions.

“We don’t have to trust them. What we have to do is to make sure that there is a good deal in place from the perspective of us verifying what they’re doing,” Obama said.

“There is the possibility of a phased agreement in which the first phase would be us, you know, halting any advances on their nuclear program, rolling some potential back, and putting in place ... some very modest relief, but keeping the sanctions architecture in place.”

The president said that if necessary such limited relief from sanctions could be reversed if it was judged Iran was not living up to its end of the bargain.

“If they’re not willing to go forward and finish the job of giving us assurances that they’re not developing a nuclear weapon, we can crank that dial back up,” Obama said.

Reports from Geneva, where Iranian negotiators are in talks with key world powers including the United States, suggest an interim deal will include limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity, verification steps and restrictions on its stockpiles of atomic material and its nuclear facilities, AFP reported.

Such an agreement would be designed to build confidence on both sides with a view to concluding a final deal that would verifiably convince the West that Iran is not building nuclear weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to reports of the close agreement saying in a Twitter post: “If the news from Geneva is true, this is the deal of the century for #Iran.”

Netanyahu had launched a campaign on twitter to uncover “The Real face of Iran” coinciding with the ongoing talks in Geneva.

(With Agencies)