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Kerry Says No Iran Nuclear Deal Yet as Critical Gaps Remain

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press upon his arrival in Geneva on Nov. 8, 2013. Photographer: Jason Reed/AFP Pool via Getty Images

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tempered expectations of a possible deal that would break the decade-long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear work by saying discord remains.

There is “not an agreement at this point in time,” Kerry told reporters after making an unscheduled stop in Geneva to participate in the nuclear talks. “We hope to try to narrow those differences but I don’t think anybody should mistake that there are some important gaps that have to be closed.”

Kerry joined counterparts from France, Germany and the U.K., who also arrived today in the Swiss city to seek an accord over Iran’s disputed nuclear work. He’ll meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later today after consulting European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

During two days of talks in Geneva, world powers have edged closer to an accord over Iran’s disputed nuclear work. While all the details have yet to be worked out, a framework has been agreed upon, Zarif said yesterday in an interview. Iran has been offered “limited, targeted and reversible relief” from sanctions in return for concrete and verifiable concessions on its nuclear work, White House spokesman Jay Carney said in Washington.

Talks are at a “sensitive and critical stage” and Kerry’s presence is needed to resolve issues where differences remain, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told journalists.

‘Utterly Rejects’

Kerry arrived after making another unscheduled visit to Israel early today to talk with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he “utterly rejects” and “is not obliged” by any potential agreement that may emerge from the Geneva meetings.

“I understand that the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva, as well they should be, because they got everything and paid nothing,” Netanyahu said.

Tensions over Iran have frayed relations that Netanyahu and the White House have worked to repair in recent months. The Israeli leader has urged the U.S. and five other powers taking part in talks with Iran -- France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China -- to reject any proposal unless it ensures a halt to all uranium enrichment and the construction of a reactor that could produce plutonium.

Iran is willing to limit the “size, scope and dimensions” of its enrichment program without bringing it to a complete halt, Araghchi said. Iran had previously signaled it’s willing to make compromises, shelving a demand for immediate recognition on the right to enrich uranium, and saying it may be ready to limit its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors who monitor Iran’s 17 declared nuclear facilities are due to fly to Tehran next week. They’re seeking access to people and sites that they’re barred from visiting, to investigate a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. The Persian Gulf nation of 80-million people insists its nuclear work is peaceful.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Geneva at jtirone@bloomberg.net; Indira A.R. Lakshmanan in Geneva at ilakshmanan@bloomberg.net; Terry Atlas in Geneva at tatlas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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