Kerry In Geneva For Latest Nuclear Talks With Iran
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
In both Iran and the United States, there is widespread anticipation of a deal over Iran's nuclear program - widespread anticipation - but there remains the question of whether diplomats can actually make one. Iran's foreign minister has been meeting Secretary of State John Kerry for a second day of nuclear talks in Geneva. The two sides have promised to deliver a framework agreement next month and a final deal by the end of June. NPR's Peter Kenyon has been covering these long-running nuclear talks. He's in Geneva. Hi, Peter.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: So what kind of progress, if any, are they making?
KENYON: Well, Secretary Kerry and Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, were at it for more than two hours last night and back at the table this morning. The public statement suggests there's still some ways to go. But I have to say, judging by the increased level of interest, there may be some new proposals on the table. There's something generating this interest.
The Iran delegation, for instance, features a lot fewer reporters and more delegates, including President Hassan Rouhani's brother - he's also a key adviser - and the atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, a nuclear expert trained at MIT. The Americans brought their own MIT expert, energy secretary Ernest Moniz, but I think the main point to take away is that Iran's various political factions - and you know how broken up they can be - they all want to have a seat at the table. Now, they want to find out what's being discussed. And that, of course, is how much uranium they can enrich and crucially what happens with that nuclear fuel once they've enriched it. Will they ship a lot of it out of the country?
INSKEEP: Now, this is supposed to be a two-step process, at least that's what the diplomats have said. How important is this first step, this framework?
KENYON: Well, it could be important in theory. That theory being, well, look if you can't even agree on the major points of a final deal, why are you still talking? And on the flipside, if you can agree on the major points, OK, let's move on and get the details done. In practice, the Iranians want to get everything worked out before they commit, and they really don't like this phasing-in idea when it comes to sanctions, which is their key point, meaning don't lift certain key sanctions right away, and we have a big problem.
INSKEEP: Now, with all that said, there's opposition in Iran. There's opposition in the United States. There's opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How intense has that opposition grown?
KENYON: Well, you look at that barometer, the pressure's definitely on the upswing. Critics on Capitol Hill will be welcoming Mr. Netanyahu to address them next month. He gave a preview yesterday at his cabinet meeting, saying the U.N. nuclear agency claims that Iran is hiding its military components. That's not what the agency has actually said, but in any event, between Netanyahu's visit and the natural inclination of the Republican-led Congress, I think we can look for a surge in criticism of these talks in the coming weeks.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Geneva. Peter, thanks as always.
KENYON: You're welcome, Steve.
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