Iran nuclear negotiations quicken as deadline approaches

(AGI) Lausanne (Switzerland), March 20 - The marathon talks onIran's nuclear programme will make a final dash towards anagreement next week, when the delegations from the six powersand Iran will return to the negotiation table with the March 31deadline pending. "A lot of progress" has been made, said U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry, who will meet with hiscounterparts from France, Germany, and the UK on Saturday todiscuss the current deadlock state of affairs - in Lausanne,due to the Iranian new year (Nowruz) and the Iraniandelegation's temporary repatriation following the death of

(AGI) Lausanne (Switzerland), March 20 - The marathon talks onIran's nuclear programme will make a final dash towards anagreement next week, when the delegations from the six powersand Iran will return to the negotiation table with the March 31deadline pending. "A lot of progress" has been made, said U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry, who will meet with hiscounterparts from France, Germany, and the UK on Saturday todiscuss the current deadlock state of affairs - in Lausanne,due to the Iranian new year (Nowruz) and the Iraniandelegation's temporary repatriation following the death ofPresident Hassan Rohani's mother. The EU's High Representativefor Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini,took stock of the situation on Friday, and will meet withBritish Prime Minister David Cameron, French President FrancoisHollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the EUCouncil in Brussels. Europe wants an agreement, but it "must becredible", Merkel said. Both Tehran and Washington seem set onreaching an agreement, but they must first reassure thehardline opposition forces in their respective governments.Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, urged the U.S.and the other five powers to put internal pressures aside.Zarif referred to a message that Barack Obama sent to theIslamic Republic for Nowruz, in which he stated: "This year, wehave the best opportunity in decades to pursue a differentfuture between our countries. This moment may not come againsoon." Obama recognised that the talks have progressed, "butgaps remain", he said. "My message to you - the people of Iran- is that, together, we have to speak up for the future weseek." Relations between the U.S. and Iran were abruptlyinterrupted in 1979 following the hostage crisis at the U.S.embassy in Tehran. Obama first spoke to Iranian citizensdirectly for the Nowruz of 2009, and spoke of their twonations' "common destiny". The message was reiterated onFriday: "I believe that our nations have an historicopportunity to resolve this issue peacefully - an opportunitywe should not miss." "Iranians have already made their choice:Engage with dignity. It's high time for the US and its alliesto choose: pressure or agreement," Zarif replied on Twitter.While speaking to Kerry in Lausanne, Zarif stated: "Nowruz isthe beginning of Spring, and in Farsi, it means 'new day'. Ihope this new day will be a new day for the entire world - anew era of greater understanding and peace." Obama's effortstowards an agreement in Tehran were hindered on one side byBenjamin Netanyahu's reelection in Israel - the leader hasalways been strongly opposed to a deal with Iran - and the U.S.Congress on the other, with a Republican majority viewing ahypothetical agreement as a mere smokescreen. The U.S. Senate'sCommittee on Foreign Relations decided to postpone the vote onthe bipartisan measure to April 14; the bill would requireObama to submit any nuclear deal with Iran to congressionalapproval. By sliding the vote from March 24 to mid-April, theCommittee has ensured that it cannot be accused - at least notformally - of attempting to boycott the negotiations, as theWhite House had done in the preceding days. Should the billpass the vote in April, Congress will then have 60 days toapprove or reject the proposed agreement with Iran. (AGI).