Kerry to meet Iran FM in Munich for nuclear talks

Published: Updated:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet his Iranian counterpart Friday on the sidelines of security talks in Munich, as a late March deadline looms for a framework nuclear deal.

Kerry arrived in southern Germany late Thursday, flying in from Kiev where he met Ukrainian leaders amid a fresh diplomatic drive to end the deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Initially the State Department had said the top U.S. diplomat would meet on Saturday in the Bavarian city with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

But spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed to AFP the talks would be Friday and the two diplomats would "discuss the ongoing nuclear talks."

Global powers have been struggling for more than a year to pin down a comprehensive deal to rein in Iran's suspect nuclear program, after an interim accord was struck in November 2013.

After missing two previous deadlines, the group known as the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- have set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.

That would be followed by a final deal setting out all the technical points of what will be a complex accord due by June 30.

But the atmosphere has been complicated by hardliners both in Iran and the United States, with US lawmakers threatening to impose new sanctions on Iran if the March deadline is missed.

So far, Iran has frozen its nuclear enrichment program in return for limited sanctions relief.

But in a fresh sign of the tensions, Iran's President Hassan Rowhani berated the world's nuclear powers on Wednesday, saying atomic weapons had not kept them safe and reiterating that his country was not seeking the bomb.

He avoided explicit mention of the ongoing nuclear talks but accused atomic-armed states of hypocrisy.

"They tell us 'we don't want Iran to make atomic bombs', you who have made atomic bombs," Rowhani said.

Kerry is in Germany to take part along with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the annual Munich Security Conference which this year will focus on the "collapse of the global order."

Government leaders from around the world will discuss the conflict in Ukraine as well as the war in Syria, the threat from Islamist militants as well as other crises from Ebola to refugees.

On Saturday, Kerry is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for talks focusing on Syria, Ukraine and the Iranian nuclear program.