Iran: An Agreement Can be Reached Tomorrow

Iran’s Foreign Minister says an agreement on his country's nuclear program is within reach. His deputy says Iran won't stop enriching.

Elad Benari ,

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran’s Foreign Minister was optimistic on Thursday that an agreement on his country's nuclear program is within reach, but his deputy emphasized that Iran would not stop enriching uranium.

"I believe it is possible to reach an understanding or an agreement before we close these negotiations (Friday) evening," Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told CNN.

Zarif's comments came after a day of meetings with diplomatic and technical teams from the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and non-nuclear-armed Germany -- referred to as the P5+1.

Though he would not detail what such an agreement could include, he told a state-run Iranian news agency, "We expect to make a breakthrough."

"We are at a very sensitive stage of negotiations, and it is best if these negotiations are done at the negotiating table rather than on live television," Zarif told CNN. "But I can tell you that we are prepared to address some of the most immediate concerns that have been raised, and we expect reciprocally our concerns to be met by the P5+1."

The framework has been agreed to, he said. "I hope by tomorrow morning we can start serious work in order to prepare some sort of a joint statement."

It would address an end game "that we all try to reach within a limited period of time, hopefully in less than a year" and a series of actions that both sides would take reciprocally "in order to build confidence and address the most immediate concerns," he said, according to CNN.

Many of those concerns center on Iran's nuclear ambitions, which some countries worry seek a nuclear weapon, an assertion that Tehran has denied.

Zarif said the program would continue in some form. "There won't be a suspension of our enrichment program in its entirety," he said. "But we can deal with various issues, various issues are on the table."

The concerns of each side have been dealt with, he said.

Zarif told CNN that Hassan Rouhani's assumption of the presidency in August has opened a window of opportunity that needs to be seized.

He acknowledged that international sanctions have resulted in economic hardship for Iranians, but said they represent a failed policy.

"Instead of 160 centrifuges that were spinning 10 years ago or eight years ago, today we have 19,000 centrifuges. So that is what sanctions and pressures and intimidation has brought these people who are continuing to advocate that type of behavior," he claimed.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Zarif’s deputy, Abbas Araqchi, declared that even if a deal is reached, his country would not stop its uranium enrichment.

"Enrichment is our red line and its suspension is unacceptable," he said, according to the Fars news agency.

When CNN asked Araqchi about the issue of uranium enrichment, he declined to answer.

Araqchi had claimed on Thursday that a breakthrough had been made at nuclear talks in Geneva, and that Tehran's proposed plan for resolving the impasse over its atomic program has been accepted by the six world powers.

At roughly the same time, Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, warned that signing an interim deal with Iran would be a mistake of “historic proportions,” but that appears to be precisely the deal being hammered out.