Kerry downplays imminent Iran nuclear deal

A newround of talks between Tehran and the P5+1 group will begin this week

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An imminent deal on Iran’s nuclear program was downplayed on Monday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, ahead of a meeting in Geneva between Tehran and six world powers.

“I have no specific expectations with respect to the negotiations in Geneva except that we will negotiate in good faith,” Kerry said, after meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

“We will try to get a first step agreement and hope that Iran will understand the importance of coming there prepared to create a document that can prove to the world that this is a peaceful program.”

“I am not going to negotiate this in public. We all need to be respectful of each others’ processes here and positions - and so it’s best to leave that negotiation to the negotiating table,” he added, declining to discuss details of a proposal under discussion.

A fresh round of talks between Tehran and the P5+1 group – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – will begin on Wednesday, after the group failed to seal a deal earlier this month.

Kerry will not be attending the talks, saying he had to be in Washington on Thursday for a congressional hearing. Instead, he will be represented by his deputy Wendy Sherman.

But he did not rule out arranging a last minute flight to Geneva if a deal appeared in the offing, as he did earlier in the month.

“We’ll see what develops, as to whether or not we can get close, and get this done,” Kerry added.

Israel and the West suspect Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its uranium enrichment program, which Tehran insists is for entirely peaceful purposes.

The White House said on Monday President Barack Obama will meet with Senate leaders on Tuesday to press his case that lawmakers should not adopt any further economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program to allow the international talks a chance to succeed.

(With AFP and Reuters)