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John Kerry Joins Iran Nuclear Talks In Geneva

NPR icon by Eyder Peralta
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Denis Balibouse

Once again raising expectations that a deal over Iran's nuclear program is at hand, Secretary of State John Kerry joined the foreign ministers of the U.K., Russia, China, France and Germany in Geneva to try to hammer out an agreement that would curb Iran's nuclear work in exchange for the loosening of some sanctions.

If you remember, Kerry was in a similar spot during the previous round of negotiations two weeks ago. Expectations were high, because talks were happening at such a high level, but the negotiations crumbled at the last minute.

This time around, NPR's Michelle Kelemen tells our Newscast unit, Kerry's spokesperson tried to play down some of the expectations.

Kerry wants to help narrow the differences, but no one should see this trip as a prediction of the outcome, Jen Psaki said.

The Guardian reports that other foreign ministers are trying tamp down expectations, too:

"A senior European diplomat told reporters that the foreign ministers would come to Geneva only if there was a deal to sign, Reuters reported.

"'We have made progress, including core issues,' the diplomat said.

"[France's Laurent] Fabius, who spoke out against a draft deal floated at the 7-9 November negotiating round, appeared guarded on arrival in Geneva, Reuters reported.

"'I hope we can reach a deal, but a solid deal. I am here to work on that,' he said.

"A French diplomatic source urged caution, saying: 'It's the home stretch, but previous negotiations have taught us to be prudent.'"

Reuters reports that one of the thorniest issues seems to have been worked out. Iran has demanded that the international community recognize its right to enrich uranium. Under draft language, the deal would acknowledge "all countries' right to their own civilian nuclear energy."

The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal that freezes Iran's nuclear program, while the sides seek a longer-term deal. Iran was asking for an easing of U.S. sanctions.

The bigger issue here is that the West has maintained that Iran is racing to make a nuclear weapon, while Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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