Iranian Nuclear Accord Prospects Clouded as French Object

Envoys from Iran and world powers may not agree to an accord today that would ease the decade-long dispute over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, an Iranian official said.

Participants are likely to issue a joint statement and meet again in 14 days, said the Iranian official, who asked not to be named because of the talks’ sensitivity. At the same time, talks continued behind closed doors in Geneva, with little information emerging to help separate posturing and negotiating tactics from high-stakes bargaining among top diplomats from the seven countries involved, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Today’s efforts faltered after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius insisted that any deal include an Iranian suspension of construction on its partially built heavy-water reactor in Arak, along with commitments to reduce its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.

A Western diplomat, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are delicate, said the U.S., the European Union and Iran have worked for months on a proposal and criticized the French for raising last-minute objections.

Lavrov joined the third day of talks today, as did a Chinese representative. Top officials from France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S. arrived yesterday, to help negotiators complete an accord over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, told reporters that negotiations will be postponed to a future round unless a deal is reached tonight, the state-run Fars news agency said.

‘Fool’s Bargain’

“We are still not there,” Fabius told reporters in Geneva today. Without an Iranian pledge to stop work at the partially built Arak reactor, from which plutonium can be extracted and used for weapons-grade material, “we’ll be faced with a fait accompli,” he said in an interview with France Inter radio. “We want an agreement, but not a fool’s bargain.”

If efforts fall short today, the sides may meet to try and agree again in seven to 10 days, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, according to Mehr news.

Kerry resumed talks this afternoon with Zarif and the EU’s foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, after more than six hours of talks yesterday. The Iranian foreign ministry said the U.K. and Germany are supporting the talks, according to Iran’s Mehr news agency.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said today in Tehran that negotiators should “use this exceptional opportunity” to “reach a positive outcome in a reasonable time,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

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