US, Iran ’getting close’ to first step on nuclear deal - officials

16 November 2013 | 20:18 Code : 1924608 Latest Headlines

As the U.S. and its allies prepare for another round of talks with Iran over its nuclear program, senior U.S. officials say they are “getting close” to a deal on a first step towards a larger deal which would ease the international communities concerns over Iran’s disputed program.

It is thought the deal would include sanctions relief for Tehran, although officials said the figures involved were not as large as previously reported.

“For the first time in nearly a decade, we are getting close to a first step toward a comprehensive agreement that would stop the Iranian nuclear program from advancing - and roll it back in key areas," a senior U.S. official said.

"That would put crucial time on the clock for us to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that addressed all of the international communities concerns about Iran’s nuclear program -- all the while it halts the progress of that progress. The agreement would include unprecedented monitoring and verification and therefore make it harder for Iran to do anything in secret.” 

The U.S. and the so-called group of P5+1 countries – the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., France, and Germany - will meet again with Iran on November 20 in Geneva for talks that are expected to continue for two days.

A deal seemed close in the last round of talks there, but the leaders left Geneva without agreement.

“There are alternatives to a diplomatic solution and some would argue for them. In our view, military conflict or Iran’s nuclear program moving forward unchecked are both less effective and costlier. So what we’re trying to do here is precisely avoid both of those outcomes,” said one of the two senior U.S. officials briefing reporters Friday on the progress of the negotiations.

“This is a fundamental discussion we are having in the world or with Capitol Hill about whether we want to do the hard work of diplomacy or get on a path that might lead us to military conflict and to war. I think the entire world believes that we must do everything we can to try to make diplomacy work.”

Although seemingly optimistic about the upcoming talks, the official added that further rounds of talks might be necessary to secure a deal. "What is important is that we get in the room and that we take the next effort at this," the official said.

The official added: “There have been wildly exaggerated figures floating around about what our relief program might look like…what we are considering is a small fraction it is not 15 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 billion dollars. It is way south of all of that.”

tags: u.s.

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