U.S. official: nuclear deal with Iran ‘possible’

Iran would receive limited sanctions relief if it agrees to curb its nuclear program

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It is “quite possible” that Iran and major powers will strike a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program when they meet again next week in Geneva, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is to join political directors from the six western powers negotiating a freeze to Iran’s suspect nuclear program for a new round of talks in the Swiss city from Wednesday.

“I don’t know if we will reach an agreement. I think it is quite possible that we can, but there are still tough issues to negotiate,” the senior administration official told reporters.

The last talks failed on Saturday to seal a first step deal which would halt Iran’s program in return for relief from crippling sanctions while all sides negotiate a final deal over the next six months.

The U.S. official said at the end of the marathon three-day talks in Geneva that the so-called P5+1 group had presented a “stronger” and “improved” draft deal to Iran which had “greater clarity” on a number of issues.

The negotiations had ended in the early hours of Saturday morning “because I think the parties, particularly Iran, felt they needed to go back and look at this document which was quite tough, consider it and come back to negotiations,” the U.S. official said.

While officials stuck to an agreement not to reveal details of the proposal on the table, it is understood it would give Iran access to “a tiny fraction” of its assets frozen in bank accounts around the world.

Another senior administration official said as much as $100 billion in revenues from Iranian oil sales was stuck in global banking accounts.

Iranian oil exports have fallen to around a million barrels a day, “dramatically down from an average of about two and a half million barrels a day in 2011,” he said.

“These declining exports are costing Iran up to $5 billion a month, and have cost Iran along with our other sanctions about $120 billion,” he said.

“So the relief that we are considering as part of the initial phase would be limited, temporary, targeted and reversible,” he added.

Shooting down reports that the U.S. and P5+1 were planning a major, valuable package of sanctions relief, he said “it would come nowhere near helping Iran escaping the hole that we’ve put them in.”

(With AFP)

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