‘Gloomy’ outlook as zero-hour approaches nuclear deal

Written By kom nampuldu on Selasa, 31 Maret 2015 | 18.18

It was crunch time Monday in high-stakes international talks with Iran over its nuclear program, with tense negotiations just hours away from the deadline.

"There still remain some difficult issues," Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the talks were being held.

"We are working very hard to work those through. We are working late into the night and obviously into tomorrow," he added. "Everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow" — meaning the deadline.

His spokeswoman, Marie Harf, put the chances of a deal at 50- 50.

"There's a chance we will get it done," she said.

The Chinese Xinhua news agency quoted a diplomat Monday saying the atmosphere had turned from optimism to "gloom."

Seated around a large rectangular table at a hotel overlooking Lake Geneva were the top diplomats from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, plus Iran — which maintains its secretive and

expansive nuclear program is peaceful.

In what could be a bad omen, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov left for Moscow after meeting with his counterparts. But officials said he'd return if there was a deal to announce.

There were multiple sticking points on the framework for an agreement meant to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, while gradually lifting sanctions.

One lingering issue: how to handle Iran's store of enriched uranium. Shipping it to Russia for reprocessing into fuel was one possible solution — but the White House on Monday knocked down a report that Iran had suddenly rejected a shipment deal.

"Unfortunately, some of the details in that story were not correct," White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters traveling with the president.

"The idea that there had been an agreement that Iran backed away from in the last 24 hours is not true. In terms of what's going to happen with that stockpile, that is something that our negotiators are working through.

"There was never an agreement on this issue yet," Schultz added. "That's still something being worked out."

Either way, Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi said sending the stockpiles overseas was "not on Iran's agenda."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to bash the negotiations Monday.

"The emerging agreement in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price to pay for aggression, and conversely, there is a reward for Iran's aggression," he said.

Diplomats are describing Tuesday as a hard deadline. But that doesn't take an extension off the table completely.

"We will really have to see tactically and strategically what makes the most sense going forward," Harf said.

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