Russian official: Iran talks close to deal but not yet there

Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Ryabkov

Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Ryabkov

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Iran and six world powers are close a nuclear agreement and are expected to iron out most of their remaining differences by the weekend, but another round will likely be needed to seal any deal, a senior Russian official said Friday.

Senior Russian negotiator Sergey Ryabkov also told The Associated Press that although European foreign ministers are likely to join the negotiations over the weekend, his minister does not intend to come.

All ministers of the six powers at the negotiating table would be expected to show up in case of a pending preliminary pact ahead of a March 31 target date. Ryabkov said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s absence is not “political,” but – unlike Moscow – some European nations still have particular “concerns” at this point of the talks.

Although some differences remain, negotiators are expected to “finish their main work” by Saturday, he said.

In earlier indications of a building deal, officials told the AP Thursday that the United States and Iran are drafting elements of a deal that commits Tehran to a 40-percent cut in the number of machines it could use to make an atomic bomb. In return, the Iranians would get quick relief from some crippling economic sanctions and a partial lift of a U.N. embargo on conventional arms.

Agreement on those details of Iran’s uranium enrichment program could signal a breakthrough for a larger deal aimed at containing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities.

The sides ultimately want to reach a full agreement by the end of June.

By The Associated Press