GENEVA — International negotiations aimed at limiting Iran's disputed
A week and a half after the last round of talks in Geneva broke off without an agreement, a U.S. negotiating team joined those of five other world powers and Iran in negotiations that are scheduled to run at least through Friday.
Representatives of the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia met among themselves and with the Iranians during the day.
The six nations negotiating with Iran are preparing a deal that offers the Islamic Republic limited relief from the Western sanctions crippling its economy in return for limits on its nuclear program. Many countries fear that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, despite its denials.
The goal of a preliminary deal is to provide time for the two sides to negotiate a final, comprehensive deal without the risk of Iran secretly forging ahead with the nuclear program during talks.
Almost all of the delegations voiced optimism that a deal was close at hand. Diplomats said that although the Iranians had left the Nov. 10 session frustrated and saying they needed to consult with their superiors in Tehran, it appeared they came back still authorized to try to hash out a deal.
U.S. officials were notably cautious.
"We want to make sure that we have taken our time to make sure this is a good deal, the right deal," said a senior administration official, who declined to be identified, citing diplomatic sensitivities.
Another inconclusive meeting could provide an opening for the many foes of a deal. Israeli Prime Minister
Democrats in the
But some senators, including
Abbas Araqchi, the deputy Iranian foreign minister, told Iranian journalists that gaps remained between the two sides.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been declaring his belief that an agreement may be close, and saying the world has a "historic opportunity" to make a deal.
Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader,
"We will not step back one iota from our rights," he said.
His harsh language again raised questions about Iran's willingness to follow through with a deal, despite Zarif's declarations, analysts said.
Though Khamenei insisted that he was not unalterably opposed to cooperation with the United States, he blasted the country for its history of slavery, mistreatment of Native Americans and brutal treatment of other nations.
He said the United States had dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945 merely to test out the weapons, and had given Saddam Hussein tons of chemical weapons to use against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.