Iran nuclear talks advance, but major gaps remain

Ben Sales

(JTA) — Six world powers and Iran began drafting a proposed final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

The drafting began Wednesday, according to reports, two months before the July target deadline for a negotiated deal that would end or significantly reduce Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions. Talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany — began last year.

The sides reached an interim agreement last December that suspended key features of the Iranian program for six months while lifting some sanctions.

On Wednesday, diplomats involved in the negotiations said that while the talks have progressed, significant gaps remain between the sides.

Iran claims its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, but Israel and much of the world believe Iran is producing nuclear weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sharply critical of last year’s interim agreement and has encouraged the U.S. and its negotiating partners to take a hard line in the talks.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said at an event Monday at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., that diplomacy must be given a chance to succeed.

“But America won’t be satisfied by mere words,” Rice said. “We will only be satisfied by verifiable action from Iran. Put simply, if we are not, there will be no deal.”

Netanyahu and President Obama differ over whether Iran should be allowed to maintain a limited civilian uranium enrichment capacity as part of a final deal. Netanyahu says Iran must not enrich at all, while the United States and other members of the P5 +1 would accept a limited capacity.

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