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Zarif: ‘we are very close’ to nuclear deal

Kerry says any deal would include intrusive access and verification measures

Published: Updated:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday he believes his country was “very close” to a nuclear arms deal with Western powers, but cautioned there were details that needed to be worked out.

In an interview with NBC News Zarif said Tehran was prepared to work “round the clock” to reach an agreement. “We believe that we are very close, very close,” although adding: “We could be very far.”

“We are very close if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier defended the nuclear talks with Iran saying any deal with Tehran would delay its nuclear weapons “breakout.”

A day after Israeli Prime Minister challenged President Barack Obama's policy on Iran during a divisive speech to Congress, Kerry said no one has presented a more viable option to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapon.

He said asking Iran to capitulate is not a plan

Kerry said he would not be distracted from the talks by external factors or politics and any deal would include intrusive access and verification measures and increase the "breakout" time needed for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

After completing a round of talks over three days with Zarif, the U.S. top diplomat said significant gaps and important choices remain.

U.S. officials have shrugged off Netanyahu’s Tuesday address.

“I am not focused in the politics of this. I am not focused on the theatre,” U.S. President Barack Obama said. “As far as I can tell, there was nothing new.

“On the core issue, which is how to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon which would make it far more dangerous, the prime minister did not offer any viable alternatives.”

But U.S. officials said that even if there is a deal with Iran, that does not mean they will turn a blind eye to the other activities of the country, still branded by Washington as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

“If we have an agreement on the nuclear file, our view is that that is something that will contribute directly to regional stability, as well as global security and stability,” a senior State Department official told reporters.

But he warned “regardless of what happens with the nuclear file, we will continue to confront aggressively Iranian expansion in the region, Iranian aggressiveness in the region.”

[with AFP]