Iran blames Western powers for nuclear talks failure

Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) and Catherine Ashton in Geneva (10 November 2013) Mohammad Zarif remains positive about the prospect of a breakthrough

Iran's foreign minister has blamed divisions between Western powers for the failure to agree a deal on its nuclear programme on Saturday.

Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected US Secretary of State John Kerry's claim that Iran had been unable to accept the deal "at that particular moment".

He said "no amount of spinning" could change what had happened in Geneva, but it could "further erode confidence".

Mr Zarif appeared to blame France for "gutting over half" of a US draft deal.

Representatives from Iran and the so-called P5+1 - the US, UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany - will meet again on 20 November.

Iran stresses that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, but world powers suspect it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Iranian press reaction

Ali Bigdeli in reformist daily Sharq: "The additional pressure exerted by some Arab countries as well as Israel on the US and France is believed to be the main reason for the postponement of an agreement... Kerry and Fabius came to an arrangement based on which the French foreign minister took the role of the objector."

Abbas Hajinajjari in conservative daily Javan: "Given the hegemonic system's intention to prolong the talks in order to exhaust the Iranians and implement the scenario of making [Iran] surrender, it seems that the Iranian diplomatic apparatus should take the leading role in the next round of talks by changing the way the talks are conducted and presenting its conditions."

Karim Arghandehpur in reformist daily Etemad: "The intense negotiations on Saturday ended without an agreement due to France's obstruction... However, I think that, in the current circumstances in the international arena, the opponents' remarks have not been well-received. In fact, the role played by France in the recent round of talks has surprised political observers."

'Not Iran's fault'

Some reports said the latest talks failed because France had wanted to place tight restrictions on the heavy-water reactor being built at Arak; others that the Iranian government's insistence on formal recognition of its "right" to enrich uranium had been the major obstacle.

During a visit to Abu Dhabi on Monday morning, Mr Kerry told reporters that the P5+1 had been "unified on Saturday when we presented our proposal to the Iranians".

"The French signed off on it, we signed off on it, and everybody agreed it was a fair proposal," he added. "Iran couldn't take it at that particular moment."

Later, Mr Zarif responded to the claim on Twitter.

"No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6pm Thursday to 5:45pm Saturday. But it can further erode confidence," he wrote.

"Mr Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? And publicly commented against it Friday morning?"

Mr Zarif appeared to be referring to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who on Friday morning cautioned in a statement that his country wanted a "credible agreement".

At the end of the day's talks, Mr Fabius told France Inter radio that Paris could not accept a "fool's game".

A Russian foreign ministry source was also quoted by the Interfax news agency on Tuesday as saying the failure was "not Iran's fault".

"Iran was happy about the draft joint document, but since a decision during the negotiations is approved by consensus, it was impossible to reach a final agreement," the source said.

Mr Zarif was nevertheless positive about the prospect of a breakthrough.

"We are committed to constructive engagement. Interaction on equal footing key to achieve shared objectives," he wrote.

Mr Kerry also told the BBC that negotiators had been "very, very close... extremely close" to agreeing a deal.

"I think we were separated by four or five different formulations of a particular concept," he said.

On Monday, Mr Fabius denied responsibility for the talks' failure and revealed that there had been several issues that "still need to be discussed with the Iranians", including the Arak facility.

Tehran says the reactor is intended for the production of radioisotopes for medical purposes, but its spent fuel will contain plutonium suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

Questions also remain over Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched to a medium level of purity, or 20%. Experts say it could be enriched to 90%, the level required for a nuclear bomb, in a relatively short time.

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