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Iran's Zarif optimistic as nuclear deal talks resume

Tehran: Iran and world powers are set to resume talks Thursday on activating a landmark nuclear deal to rein in Tehran's nuclear programme, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif voicing optimism.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Wednesday that negotiations were progressing amid “strong political will”, on the eve of the resumption of the Geneva talks aimed at putting into action an interim nuclear deal clinched in November.

On Thursday his deputy, Abbas Araqchi, will meet Helga Schmid, deputy to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton whose office represents the P5+1 group of world powers in the decade-long negotiations with Tehran.

She would meet with both Araqchi and Schmid, the State Department said in a statement, without confirming reports from Iranian news agencies that there would be a three-way meeting.

Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the talks will focus on remaining issues “pending a political decision” before the deal can go into effect on January 20, a date mooted by both sides.

Under the deal, Iran is to curb parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions and a promise by Western powers not to impose new measures against the Iranian economy, which has been battered by the embargo.

The interim deal is meant to buy time for diplomacy to clinch a lasting agreement that would allay Western suspicions that Iran is covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

 “We believe commitment to the Geneva deal will (allow) progress into the next difficult phase of negotiations, and make reaching a comprehensive accord quite conceivable,” he said.

The talks, which hit a wall amid tensions between the West and hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gathered pace after the election of relative moderate Hassan Rouhani, who succeeded him last August.

Amid signs of a thaw with the international community, Rouhani pledged transparency on the nuclear programme and engagement with major powers to try to remove the sanctions and improve life for Iranians.

 

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