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Gaps seen narrowing despite Iran nuclear deal failure

Update: November, 11/2013 - 12:15

TEHRAN – Diplomats insisted they are closing in on an agreement on Iran's nuclear programme despite the failure to clinch a long-sought deal in marathon negotiations in Geneva.

As Tehran said it would not abandon its "right" to enrichment, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would do all it could to keep the so-called P5+1 group of world powers from striking a deal.

Hopes for a deal had soared after top diplomats rushed to Geneva to join the talks, but faded again as cracks began to appear among world powers when France raised concerns over a heavy water reactor being built at Arak. The talks ended in the early hours of Sunday.

But diplomats on Sunday insisted they were zeroing in on an agreement to lift some of the crippling sanctions on Iran in return for the freezing of much of its nuclear programme, and planned to meet again from November 20.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tehran had been "decisive" in the "very substantial" talks aimed at renouncing "threats and sanctions".

His British counterpart William Hague – who also attended the three days of talks in Geneva – said it was "vital to keep the momentum" and insisted "a deal is on the table and can be done."

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida urged Iran to take further steps to clinch a nuclear deal in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Sunday.

Kishida "suggested" Iran accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows unannounced inspections of its nuclear sites, said a Japanese spokesman. The pause in talks has given a window of opportunity for opponents, particularly Israel, to derail the deal. Israel sees Iran's nuclear programme as a threat to its existence.

The short-term deal would have reportedly frozen or curbed some of Iran's nuclear activities, which Israel and the West suspect are aimed at developing the ability to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran, which insists its programme is entirely peaceful, would receive limited relief from sanctions battering its ailing economy while the two sides worked on a comprehensive agreement.AFP

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