Ashton, said: “no guarantee” that Iran and world powers would be able to reach a final, comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.
TEHRAN – The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said Sunday that there was “no guarantee” that Iran and world powers would be able to reach a final, comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.
Ms. Ashton, who talked with Iranian leaders in Tehran, represents the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States), plus Germany, known as the P5-plus-1 group, which reached an interim agreement with Iran in November to limit its nuclear program. It was a breakthrough after more than a decade of talks.
The six-month, renewable agreement obliged Iran to stop enriching uranium to high levels and to reduce its stockpile of near-weapons-grade uranium. In return, some economic sanctions were lifted, including access to $4.2 billion in Iranian cash frozen in foreign banks.
But on Sunday, Ms. Ashton tried to temper optimism about a final deal.
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Speaking to air force commanders in Tehran on Thursday, Ayatollah Ali Khameini said Iran interactive Multimedia Feature: Timeline on Iran’s Nuclear ProgramMARCH 21, 2013
“This interim agreement is really important, but not as important as a comprehensive agreement,” Ms. Ashton said at a joint news conference with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Because of the “difficult” and “challenging” nature of the process, however, “there is no guarantee that we will succeed,” she added.
Mr. Zarif, who has faced pressure from Iranian hard-liners who accuse him of selling out the country’s nuclear program, emphasized that his negotiators would agree only to a deal that respected Iran’s “rights,” a reference to the nation’s ability to enrich uranium independently on its own soil.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Sunday at the start of a cabinet meeting that Ms. Ashton should ask the Iranians about a merchant ship Israel seized in the Red Sea last week, carrying what Israel described as an Iranian shipment of weapons intended for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Iran has rejected Israel’s allegations.
“Nobody has the right to ignore the true and murderous actions of the regime in Tehran,” Mr. Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his press office. “I think that it would be proper for the international community to give its opinion regarding Iran’s true policy, not its propaganda.”