U.S., Iran officials to meet for nuclear deal talks
Washington official calls the talks a ‘timely opportunity’ to try to advance a nuclear deal with world powers
The United States said on Saturday its No. 2 diplomat will meet senior Iranian officials in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday in an apparent effort to break a standstill in wider negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Bill Burns, the deputy secretary of state, who led secret U.S.-Iranian negotiations that helped bring about a Nov. 24 interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers, will head a U.S. delegation, Reuters reported.
Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the primary U.S. negotiator with Iran, will accompany him on a delegation that will also include senior White House national security staff.
Direct bilateral talks between Iran and the United States would be “a timely opportunity” to try to advance a nuclear deal with world powers, a U.S. official told Agence France-Presse on Saturday.
“These consultations come at an important juncture of the negotiations,” the senior administration official said just after both sides announced that surprise talks would take place next week in Geneva.
The bilateral talks come at a crunch time as Iran and the six world powers try to hammer out a difficult comprehensive treaty to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
An interim six-month deal, under which the U.S. and its partners released some $7 billion frozen by tough sanctions in return for a slowdown in Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment program, expires on July 20.
And the last round of talks in Vienna, during which all sides had hoped to start drawing up the pact, ended with little progress.
Western officials say that Iran insists on maintaining an excessive uranium enrichment capability, which Tehran says is necessary so that it is not dependent on foreign suppliers for fuel for its nuclear reactors.
Tehran rejects allegations from Western powers and their allies that it is seeking the capability to produce atomic weapons under cover of a civilian energy program.
(With Reuters and AFP)