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Vienna Dispatch: Kerry Calls Netanyahu; “Big Gaps” Remain in Iran Nuclear Negotiations

VIENNA – With the deadline to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program only days away, negotiators in Vienna are working to bridge what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today called “big gaps” in negotiation demands.

In addition to multiple meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and various European diplomats, Kerry consulted with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the telephone, a senior State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon. Kerry also conducted a separate conference call for foreign ministers from Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Turkey.

Though very few details of the negotiations have been made public, Kerry stated that negotiators are doing “serious work” to achieve a deal.

We’re working hard, and we hope we’re making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we’re working to close. The good thing is the [countries negotiating with Iran] are united and working in concert and we’re simply going to not say anything substantive about the discussions while they’re going on, but a lot of serious work is going on by a lot of people.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also a participant in these talks, said that “We will do whatever we can and if we can’t then we will leave ourselves open to the accusation that we have missed out on something that could have resolved this standoff.” British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond also indicating a strong desire to make a deal, saying yesterday that “We are very clear that we have to get more flexibility from the Iranians. In return, we’re prepared to show some flexibility on our side.”

These comments seem to indicate Western negotiators softening their positions on certain issues.  The Wall Street Journal reported that an earlier demand that Iran shut down its heavy-water nuclear reactor in Arak has been taken off the table. The Arak plant could be used to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium. The P5+1 nations are also trying, in the words of one senior Western official quoted by Reuters, to “be creative” in getting Iran to fully disclose the history of its nuclear weaponization program, as the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly demanded.

The deadline to conclude the talks is Monday, November 24, but multiple reports say it is very possible that the deadline for a final deal could be extended, as it was in July.

[Photo: Associated Press / YouTube]