Washington: Amidst the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Geneva, the US has acknowledged that it would be "very hard" to clinch a deal on Tehran`s controversial atomic programme.
"It is hard. It is very hard," a senior Obama administration official told reporters in Geneva as the latest round of P5+1 talks kicked off with Iran.
"If this were easy to do, it would have been done a long time ago. This is difficult. This is tough. There is a lot at stake for every country in the room. The strongest thing that the P5+1 has had throughout this process is tremendous unity of purpose. That unity remains," another US official said.
"There was a need for everyone to go back and consult in capitals, but an agreement that we should get back together quite quickly, which we have. Ten days in diplo-speak is a pretty quick timetable to get everybody`s schedule lined up to come back," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Describing the atmosphere as positive, the official said the focus here is on the nuclear talks to try to reach that first agreement, the general outlines of a comprehensive agreement, and to take this first difficult step to a period of time where we can negotiate a comprehensive agreement.
"As Secretary (of State, John) Kerry said recently, we are not in a rush to just get any deal done. We want to make sure that we`ve taken the time to ensure that this is a good deal, the right deal, and takes us a step towards a comprehensive agreement that ensures the international community that Iran`s program is entirely peaceful and that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon," the official said.
"The issue is very important, as you all know. The details are very complicated. And so we are working to get this first step to put time on the clock to negotiate a comprehensive agreement. Time is not unlimited, but we think we are making very good progress and people have arrived back here with a commitment to do the hard work necessary to try to reach our common objective," the official said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden hosted a meeting at the White House with a group of Democratic Senators to discuss Iran. The meeting, joined by his national security team, lasted approximately two hours.
"The Vice President emphasised that the goal of the ongoing diplomatic negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The current P5+1 proposal would halt the progress of Iran`s nuclear program and roll it back in key respects, providing the first meaningful limits that Iran has accepted on its nuclear program in nearly a decade," a red out of the meeting said.
"The initial, sixth month step would include significant
limits on Iran`s nuclear program to begin to address our most urgent concerns including Iran`s enrichment capabilities, existing stockpiles of uranium, centrifuges, and ability to produce plutonium using the Arak reactor," the White House said, adding that the concessions Iran would make as part of a first step would also provide us with intrusive monitoring of Tehran`s nuclear programme.
"Taken together, these measures would prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear programme as we negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community`s concerns," the White House said.
It said Biden underscored that the relief the US would provide to Iran as part of the first step would be modest and temporary compared to the substantial, continuing impact of sanctions, which would be vigorously enforced throughout the first step.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the question now is Iran prepared to take a deal that in this first phase would really give them the chance to have more intrusive and more frequent inspections, which would allow them to test whether this new rhetoric is real.
"And so will be very important," she said.
Meanwhile, the Republican leadership continued to be critical of the Iranian deal.
"The Obama Administration`s disengagement from the Middle East has damaged America`s credibility and risked our security, and nowhere is that more evident than with the ongoing challenge of Iran," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in an op-ed in Time magazine.
"An interim deal may indeed slow or halt some elements of Iran`s programme. But it appears inevitable that Iran will be allowed to continue spinning some centrifuges, improving its ability to enrich uranium, the fissile material required for a bomb," he wrote.
"It may even be allowed to continue producing new, more efficient IR-2 centrifuges. Even if it doesn`t install these new centrifuges, amassing such machines will reduce the time required for a `breakout` capability. Is it worth it to put time back on the clock while Iran is acquiring the capability to more quickly take it back off?" he said.
"Iran`s decades of deceit about its nuclear programme cannot be ignored, and an unprecedented inspections and verification regime will be required to assure that Tehran is not cheating. If we are to trust any deal, Iran must open up completely to international inspectors and come clean on its weaponization and missile research. Distrust and verify must be our guiding principle," Cantor added.