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(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined negotiations in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear work amid pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the talks with the Islamic Republic.
Talks entered a third day with diplomats from the U.S., Iran and European nations huddled inside the Hotel President Wilson on the shores of Lake Geneva in the Swiss city. Top scientists including U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernst Munoz and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, met yesterday to work out technical parameters of a possible agreement.
U.S. diplomats negotiating with Iran are facing opposition both at home and abroad. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has invited Netanyahu to address Congress March 3, where the Israeli leader said he’ll warn against the nuclear accord currently being negotiated.
“It is odd that after a weekend in which an International Atomic Energy Agency report stated Iran is continuing to conceal the military aspect of its nuclear program, the talks with it are continuing as usual,” Netanyahu told his cabinet today, according to an e-mailed statement.
The IAEA reported last week that while Iran was sticking to an interim deal with world powers, cutting its most sensitive nuclear work in exchange for limited sanctions relief, inspectors couldn’t guarantee that its past work was exclusively peaceful. Iran has said IAEA inspectors are basing their 12- year-old case on forged documents. The U.S. said in court filings last month that providing fake blueprints was part of its strategy to stifle suspected weapons work.
“Now we will find out whether or not Iran is able to match its words about its willingness to show that its program is fully peaceful with the verifiable actions and the verifiable decisions that are necessary to accomplish that goal,” Kerry said late yesterday in London. “There are still significant gaps.”
The biggest differences separating the sides are over Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and the pace at which international sanctions will be lifted. The Persian Gulf country, which holds the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, has resisted cutting its installed enrichment capacity, something world powers have said is a nonstarter for lifting sanctions. Diplomats have given themselves until March 24 to agree on the framework for a deal.
Issues need to be examined “with transparency, precision and in detail,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the official Islamic Republic News Agency before he was scheduled to meet with Kerry. While the U.S. believes sanctions are an asset, as long as “their aim is to administrate pressure on Iran, no results can be reached,” Zarif said.
--With assistance from Golnar Motevalli in Tehran, Calev Ben- David in Jerusalem, Jillian Ward in London and Ladane Nasseri in Dubai.
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