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Iran-West nuclear deal faces final hurdles

Iran said nuclear talks have focused on remaining “points of difference”

Published: Updated:

An Iranian nuclear negotiator played down the prospects of reaching a deal with the world powers on Thursday amid U.S. plans to move ahead with tougher sanctions on Tehran.

“I do not think the negotiations will reach a conclusion tonight,” Abbas Araqchi, a deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency after an afternoon session with the P5+1 group of world powers.

The remarks came at a gathering in Geneva with political directors from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

Araqchi said that the talks had been “serious” and had focused on remaining “points of difference.”

He was referring to Iran’s insistence that the six recognize what it calls its right to enrich uranium.

Araqchi refused to speculate whether a deal would be clinched on Friday, saying: “One cannot judge about tomorrow.”

An Israeli source with information on the closed-door nuclear talks in Geneva criticized the U.S. administration's eagerness to reach a deal with Tehran.

“Kerry does not understand simply the issues he examines. Before days, he said that the Fordow nuclear plant must be under international monitoring. This plant has been under international inspection for long,” said the source, who refused to be named, in statements to Al Arabiya News Channel.

“We have lost the first session [of negotiations] and we hope that the final deal will be better,” the source added.

Looming tougher sanctions

Many U.S. lawmakers have also criticized the Obama administration’s approach with Iran and vowed to escalate the situation by proceeding with plans to impose tougher sanction on the Islamic Republic.

“I will support a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions, place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the Iranian economy that support its nuclear ambitions, as well as pursue those who divert goods to Iran,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday.

A sanctions bill has been held up in the Senate Banking Committee for months, after President Obama asked for a delay to allow time to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, according to Reuters.

The West says Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The holdup by Obama's fellow Democrats, who control the Senate, angered many Republicans as well as some Democrats who threatened to push ahead with their own sanctions measures if the bill in the Banking Committee did not advance, according to Reuters.

Members of Congress, backed by the influential pro-Israel lobby, tend to be more hawkish on Iran than the Obama administration.

(With AFP and Reuters)