By Paul Richter / Tribune Washington Bureau
VIENNA—In an eleventh-hour appeal, Iran’s foreign minister used a video clip on Friday to prod the six world powers he is negotiating with to abandon “coercive” tactics and strike a deal over his nation’s nuclear program.
The official, Mohammad Javad Zarif, accused the countries in an English-language video posted on YouTube of bullying Iran during the past two years of bargaining to try to get an agreement unfairly tilted.
They were using pressure, he said in the clip, just as they had used “discriminatory and unjust sanctions” to punish Iranians.
“Some stubbornly believe that military and economic coercion can ensure submission,” he said. “They insist on spending other people’s money or sacrificing other people’s children for their own delusional designs.”
Now, the major powers “have opted for the negotiating table,” Zarif said. “But they still need to make a critical and historic choice: agreement or coercion.”
Negotiators for Iran and the six world powers—the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China —appear close to completing a deal that would lift economic sanctions on Iran if it accepts limits intended to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear bomb for the next 10 to 15 years. But bargaining has been tough in the past several days, as the two sides have maneuvered for last-minute advantage.
The video appeared to be aimed at building more pressure and showing that if talks break down, the fault lies with the US and other powers, rather than with Iran. It seemed also to be intended to show Zarif’s audience back home that Iran’s negotiating team has been holding strong to try to get the best possible deal.
As Iranian officials have sometimes done in the past, Zarif also promised that if a deal was done, Iran could help the other countries with what he said was the greatest threat facing the Mideast: the Islamic State militant group.
“Our common threat today is the growing threat of violent extremism and outright barbarity,” he said, referring to “hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilization.”
Zarif suggested that the negotiators were extremely near to a deal. The group “has never been closer to a lasting outcome,” he said.
A senior Obama administration official would not comment on the video. The official, who declined to be identified citing State Department rules, told a group of reporters that negotiators were “in the endgame of all this.” But he said a number of tough issues remained, some of which, he said, could only be resolved at the level of foreign ministers, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry.
Earlier Friday the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said it had made progress this week on a central issue in the talks: Its examination of Tehran’s alleged past nuclear activity. But it said it hadn’t fully resolved the issue.
Yukia Amano, director general of the IAEA, said in a statement after a visit to Tehran on Thursday that the IAEA and Iran “have a better understanding on some ways forward, though more work will be needed.”
He said he and Iranian officials had also discussed how the IAEA will monitor Iran’s nuclear activities under the proposed deal.
He didn’t comment on whether the two sides had made progress in trying to sort out how much latitude IAEA inspectors will have in monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity.
A senior Iranian official put a more positive interpretation on the meeting.
Abbas Araqchi, a deputy prime minister, said the meeting was “positive and successful” and asserted that Tehran is “ready to settle” the controversial issue of Iran’s alleged past research into nuclear weapons, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Iran’s past nuclear activities, and particularly alleged work on military applications, has been a major obstacle in efforts to settle the 13-year-old conflict between Tehran and world powers over its nuclear program.
Iranian officials have denied that the country has worked on a nuclear weapon, and Araqchi declined to answer many of the agency’s questions.
Image credits: AP