US, Iran hold talks to hasten nuclear deal
Top diplomats from Iran and the United States yesterday met for "important" talks aimed at speeding up negotiations for a nuclear deal as a new July 1 deadline for an historic accord looms.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif huddled in an upscale Geneva hotel, ahead of full negotiations with global powers which resume on Sunday.
They are seeking to break a stalemate which has caused them to miss two previous deadlines for a full agreement to rein in Iran's suspect nuclear programme.
Zarif told reporters yesterday's talks were "important."
"I think it will show the readiness of the two parties to move forward to speed up the process."
But asked if there would be a comprehensive deal by the July 1 deadline, he remained cautious replying: "We'll see."
Past negotiations have stumbled reportedly over Iran's insistence that it retain the right to enrich some uranium -- which can in some cases be used to make an atomic bomb -- for what it says is a peaceful civilian nuclear programme.
There has also been disagreement over global sanctions, with Tehran calling for an end to an iron-fisted regime which has crippled Iran's economy, while the US has insisted on a temporary, gradual suspension.
Kerry has said the aim of his talks with Zarif on Wednesday is to "take stock" and provide guidance for their negotiating teams ahead of fresh discussions by global powers known as the P5+1 here on Sunday.
The top US diplomat, who was accompanied to yesterday's talks by his chief negotiators Wendy Sherman and Bill Burns, also told reporters earlier this week that he hopes to "accelerate the process to make greater progress."
Diplomats fear that time may be running out, after two earlier deadlines for an accord were missed.
American lawmakers are eager to impose new sanctions on Iran despite attempts by the Obama administration to hold them off. Washington's UN envoy Samantha Power said Monday that ratcheting up sanctions against Iran would likely torpedo the negotiations.