Iran says nuke talks focused despite Yemen crisis
Zarif spoke shortly after his first meeting of the day with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Iran’s foreign minister sought Friday to dismiss concerns that his country’s preoccupation with the crisis in Yemen could pre-empt attempts to find common ground at nuclear talks with six world powers, saying the negotiations remained focused on sealing a deal.
Yemen is “the hot issue of the day” and has come up at the talks but “it doesn’t mean that we negotiated about it,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters.
Saudi-led air strikes on Shiite rebels in Yemen are straining relations between the Sunni Gulf kingdom and predominantly Shiite Iran. Zarif said they “have to stop and everybody has to encourage dialogue and national reconciliation.”
Despite Iran’s concerns over Yemen, however, “our negotiations are confined to the nuclear” issue, he said.
Zarif spoke shortly after his first meeting of the day with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The sides are hoping to narrow gaps in time to reach a preliminary deal by the end of the month. That would allow them to try and negotiate a comprehensive agreement by late June to put long-term curbs on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iranian officials have been upbeat recently about the chances of making enough progress by Tuesday to permit them to proceed into the summer. But Zarif was less bullish Friday, saying only that he hoped the sides would come to a common understanding by next week.
“The talks are very difficult and very complicated,” he told Iranian TV.
The Obama administration has made an accord that lessens fear about Iran’s nuclear weapons potential a top foreign policy objective. Iran denies any interest in such arms but has been drawn to the negotiating table in part by the pressure of crippling economic sanctions.
Reflecting Tehran’s interest in reaching a deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent a letter to President Barack Obama and the leaders of the other countries at the talks - Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. His office said Friday the letters contained proposals on how to reach a deal, without elaborating. Rouhani also spoke to the leaders of Russia, France and Britain by phone.
The fate of a fortified underground bunker previously used for uranium enrichment appeared close to resolution. Officials have told The Associated Press that the U.S. may allow Iran to run hundreds of centrifuges at the formerly secret facility in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.
The trade-off would allow Iran to run several hundred of the devices at its Fordo facility, although the Iranians would not be allowed to do work that could lead to an atomic bomb and the site would be subject to international inspections.
In return, Iran would be required to scale back the number of centrifuges it runs at its Natanz facility and accept other restrictions on nuclear-related work.
Instead of uranium, which can be enriched to be the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, any centrifuges permitted at Fordo would be fed elements such as zinc, xenon or germanium for separating out isotopes used in medicine, industry or science, the officials said.
Even if repurposed to enrich uranium, the number of centrifuges would not be enough to produce the amount needed to produce a weapon within a year - the minimum time-frame that Washington and its negotiating partners demand.
British FM: Saudi could not accept Iran-backed regime in YemenSaudi Arabia could not accept an Iranian-backed regime in the form of the Houthi militia in power in Yemen, compelling the Kingdom to intervene, ... Middle East
Yemen FM: Iran forces were in Sanaa to support HouthisThe offensive comes after powerful explosions rocked Sanaa Thursday night Middle East
Iran’s Zarif urges dialogue, national reconciliation in YemenHe said there had been discussions on the sidelines of nuclear talks about Yemen, where Tehran has backed the Houthis Middle East
Iran may run centrifuges at fortified siteThe United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, officials say Middle East
Erdogan: ‘Iran is trying to dominate the region’The Turkish president says Iran’s bid to dominate the Middle East has begun to annoy him Middle East
Erdogan: Turkey may provide logistics support to Decisive StormErdogan says he can't tolerate Iran’s attempt to dominate Middle East Middle East
Why ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ is the ultimate setback for IranSurprisingly, Iran’s longtime ally Sudan opted to join the anti-Houthi alliance Analysis
UK’s Cameron to Iran’s Rowhani: Nobody should be backing Houthis in YemenCameron spoke with Rouhani after warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies struck Shiite Muslim rebels fighting to oust Yemen’s president Middle East
Yemeni protesters in Taiz hail Saudi offensive, King SalmanKing Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia ordered the beginning of a military operation against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels Middle East
Iran, Assad regime condemn Operation ‘Decisive Storm’ in YemenSaudi Arabia launched Operation Decisive Storm late Wednesday to counter Houthi rebels who have besieged the southern city of Aden Middle East