WASHINGTON -- Weekend talks seeking a deal on Iran’s nuclear program fell apart not because of divisions among six world powers, but because Iran balked at the last moment, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday.
In comments in Abu Dhabi, where he sought to keep Persian Gulf allies behind the diplomatic effort, Kerry said that when a draft text was completed “the French signed off, we signed off on it.”
But Iran “couldn’t take it,” he said.
Officials said one specific obstacle was Iran’s demand for recognition of what it views as its “right” to enrich uranium.
The talks, begun Thursday in anticipation of a historic breakthrough, appeared to begin to unravel when French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius raised public objections that the deal was too easy on Iran.
As other members of the six powers grumbled about France’s public criticism, it appeared that the vaunted unity of the six powers had frayed. Kerry’s explanation would be more positive for the group, suggesting it was again Iran, as it has been in the past, that halted progress.
U.S. officials offered that explanation in Israel on Sunday as well.
Kerry said he believes the two sides will reach an agreement within months.
“This is not a race to sign just any agreement,” he said.
Kerry returns to Washington this week to try to calm congressional demands for a quick imposition of additional sanctions on Iran’s struggling economy. The administration is trying to close that effort, arguing it could snarl negotiations or even drive Tehran entirely away from the bargaining table.
Meanwhile, Iran signed an agreement with the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency that will permit the agency to more closely monitor the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has long set limits on the agency’s activities, so the deal was a hopeful sign.