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November 22, 2013 11:52 am

Imminent Iran Nuclear Deal Unlikely as Foreign Ministers Cancel Flights to Geneva

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. Photo: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

Reports of an imminent deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program seemed unlikely to materialize on Friday, as most of the foreign ministers of the six nations leading the talks have cancelled plans to travel to Geneva, as would be required for the signing of an agreement, with the work left to diplomatic staffers, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported from Geneva.

Of the foreign ministers, only Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was expected to make an appearance in Geneva, Ma’ariv said early on Friday.

Ma’ariv outlined the sticking points in the negotiations, the main obstacle still being Iran’s refusal to budge on calls to forfeit the ability to enrich uranium, which it has claimed as a “right.”

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Arkag’i said, “The principle that Iran has the right to enrich uranium is not debatable, even if you can argue over the quantities, the level of enrichment of uranium and its location.”

Other issues related to the document itself. Written in English, staffers worried about problems that could arise from translating the agreement into Persian, which would have to be re-checked so that all parties are signing the same deal. In addition, a decision to make the document signable only once, at the very end, rather than in sections, means it will be an all-or-nothing decision for Iran. Often times, international treaties and agreements are split into sections to allow parties to save face by coming out with a partial agreement on individual issues, rather than the all-or-nothing approach.

Ma’ariv said the French team believes there are still four or five hurdles before a deal can be announced. The U.S. side, the newspaper said, is eager to close the deal shortly, as the U.S. senate is scheduled to debate further sanctions on Iran on December 2, and little movement is expected next week, with the U.S. celebrating the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

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