William Hague plays down deal as Iran nuclear talks ‘critical’


Negotiations between six world powers and Iran aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon reached a critical stage tonight, after foreign ministers gathered in Geneva in search of a breakthrough on an interim deal.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague set the tone for the day by saying that the ministers were “not here because things are necessarily finished. We’re here because they’re difficult.”

Mr Hague also said that although the gaps between Iran and the so-called P5+1 had narrowed since the last round of negotiations two weeks ago, the negotiators were still confronted by “the same areas of difficulty”.

The main issues that remain to be settled concern Western demands for the construction of a plutonium reactor to be halted, and the curbing of Iranian uranium enrichment. Iran is insisting on its right to enrich uranium – which it says is solely for energy purposes – and wants an easing of economic sanctions, which have crippled its oil and banking sectors.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived from Washington yesterday to join the foreign ministers from the UK, Russia, France, Germany and China in support of officials who resumed their talks last Wednesday. The EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton, is leading the negotiations with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who held a 90-minute session with Mr Kerry in the afternoon.