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Iran's negotiator expects accord; 'End game has begun' for draft nuclear pact by Tuesday.

Byline: Michael R. Gordon

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Iran's chief diplomat said Saturday that he has had productive discussions with his European counterparts and that negotiators were ready to begin drafting an initial agreement on an Iranian nuclear accord.

"I believe that France and Germany are serious about an agreement,'' said Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister. "We are ready to draft.''

Western diplomats cautioned that gaps remained and that it was still unclear whether they could be bridged.

Negotiators are trying to meet a Tuesday deadline for settling on the main parameters of an accord.

Once that step is taken, a comprehensive agreement with detailed technical addendums is to be finished by the end of June.

With the deadline just days away, foreign ministers from other world powers began arriving here to join U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Zarif, who have been meeting since Thursday.

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, met Saturday with Kerry and then separately with Zarif.

Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, are scheduled to arrive Sunday.

China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, is also heading here, a Chinese diplomat said, and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, is expected to arrive soon.

"The end game of the long negotiations has begun,'' Steinmeier said as he arrived. "The final meters are the most difficult, but also the decisive ones.''

Negotiators have been at odds on important issues, including what limits should be placed on the research, development of new types of centrifuges for enriching uranium, the length of an accord, and the pace at which economic sanctions on Iran should be removed.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters Saturday that one or two more technical nuclear issues needed to be resolved, and that the questions in the talks were interrelated.

"Agreement on all issues must be reached,'' Salehi said. "There are so many angles to these negotiations -- political, legal and technical -- and these are all connected. For example, let's say we resolved the technical issues, but not the sanctions. This would not be accepted.''

Asked at the start of his meeting with Zarif on Saturday if he expected a good day, Kerry said dryly, "We're expecting an evening today.''

"Evening, night, midnight, morning,'' Zarif added.

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Author:Gordon, Michael R.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Mar 29, 2015
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