LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The United States and Iran reported significant progress Saturday toward a nuclear agreement, with the Iranian president declaring a deal within reach. America’s top diplomat was more reserved, leaving open whether world powers and Tehran would meet a March 31 deadline.
Speaking after a week of nuclear negotiations in Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry challenged Iran to make “fundamental decisions” that prove to the world it has no interest in atomic weapons. Amid conflicting statement by officials about how close the sides were, Kerry said, “We have an opportunity to try to get this right.”
The talks “have made substantial progress,” Kerry told reporters, “though important gaps remain.” Talks with Iran resume next week.
In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was more optimistic. “Achieving a deal is possible,” he said. “There is nothing that can’t be resolved.”
Other negotiators offered both positive and negative assessments. Top Russian negotiator Sergey Ryabkov and Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said in recent days that technical work was nearly done. But French officials said the opposite, declaring the sides far from any agreement.
Kerry was departing later Saturday to meet with European allies in London, before returning to Washington, in part to ensure unity. Kerry said the U.S. and its five negotiating partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — are “united in our goal, our approach, our resolve and our determination.”