23rd Oct 2020

France blocks Iran nuclear deal

France has blocked a deal between UN powers and Iran on its nuclear programme, but talks are to resume next week.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who is charing the negotiations, and Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, played down the French issue at a press conference at 1am in Geneva on Sunday (10 November).

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"Of course, we have our differences. This is why we are here. If we did not, we would not need to meet and you would not need to stay here until one o'clock to listen to us," Zarif said.

US secretary of state John Kerry also said "tonight there was a unity in our position," referring to a draft deal put forward by China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US.

He warned media about "believing … little parcels of information that somebody pretends to know" about whether France said this or that.

"The fact is that the negotiations are actually taking place enormously privately, and that is a sign of the seriousness of what is taking place," he noted.

But for his part, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was more blunt.

He told France's Inter radio on Saturday: "We don't want a fool's deal."

He added: "There was an initial text [of an agreement] which we did not accept."

He also went against Kerry's idea of conducting talks "privately" by revealing details of the compromise.

Fabius said the draft deal did not ensure the mothballing of Iran's Arak reactor, which could be used to make a plutonium-based weapon. He indicated it did not ensure that Iran would give up enriching Uranium and he hinted the US has offered to unfreeze Iranian money in foreign banks in return for concessions.

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu also did his best to torpedo an agreement.

He said in a speech in Jerusalem on Sunday that Iran is making missiles which can hit the US.

He said later the same day he had spoken to the British, French, German, Russian and US leaders to tell them that the current deal is "bad and dangerous."

Despite Zarif's cheerful tone, Iranian state-run media attacked France after the Geneva talks ended.

The Keyhan newspaper spoke of Fabius' "disgraceful behaviour" and of "his remarks on behalf of the Zionist regime [Israel]."

The Irna news agency described French behaviour as "adventurist and immature."

The Reuters news agency also reported that some EU and US diplomats are unhappy with Fabius' intervention.

"The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively together for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations," a diplomatic source told the newswire.

Kerry said senior officials from all asides will resume talks in the next few days.

The EU and UN powers' foreign ministers and Iran will meet again in Geneva on 20 and 21 November.

EU announces Iran nuclear deal

The world's most powerful countries and Iran have agreed a six-month deal on its nuclear programme, prompting outrage in Israel.

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