WASHINGTON -- After days of rising expectations, diplomats from six world powers failed in marathon talks with Iran to seal a preliminary deal aimed at launching comprehensive negotiations on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Foreign ministers, who had hoped for a breakthrough on one of the world’s most urgent security challenges, said instead early Sunday that they had been unable to resolve issues raised by France in 16½ hours of talks on Saturday.
As a result, they said, lower-level officials will return to Geneva in 10 days to resume their effort to end a decade of diplomatic stalemate on the issue.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, told reporters that “it may have been natural that when we get into the details … there will be differences of viewpoint.” But he insisted that the group had made progress in three days of talks, and that “we are all on the same wavelength.”
The deal was designed to offer Iran an easing of punishing sanctions on its economy in return for temporary, limited curbs on its nuclear program. The group wanted to prevent Iran from advancing toward nuclear weapons capability over the next six months or so it would take to negotiate a final deal.
The draft text of an agreement developed by the six countries was challenged Friday and Saturday by France, which wanted to toughen up the terms of the deal offered to Iran on a heavy-water nuclear plant and on its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium. France also wanted to adjust the terms of the sanctions relief offered to Iran.
“One wants a deal … but not a sucker’s deal,” Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, told a French radio station, France Inter, in an interview early Saturday.