Iran nuclear talks get off to rocky start

The latest round of nuclear talks with Iran got off to a rocky start Wednesday in Geneva, with Iran's supreme leader calling Israel a “rabid dog” in comments France said would “complicate” negotiations.

Secretary of State John Kerry's recent assertion that the parties were “extremely close” to a deal has given way to cautious optimism in recent days. Israel has launched an international campaign against the proposal, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier Wednesday vowed Iran would not retreat “one step” from what he calls its right to peaceful nuclear energy — potentially the main stumbling block to a deal.

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“I think we can [get a deal], whether we will, we will have to see because it is hard. It is very hard,” a senior Obama administration official told reporters in Geneva, according to Reuters. “These negotiations are difficult. They are tough. There are moments of tension. There are moments of even humor, occasionally.”

The deal on the table would reportedly ease sanctions on Iran by $6 billion to $10 billion — far less than the $20 billion to $40 billion Israelis initially told lawmakers in their effort to persuade the Senate to pass tough new sanctions. In exchange, Iran would have to freeze the most advanced part of its nuclear program for six months, as negotiators seek to work out a comprehensive deal that would put to rest concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.

The initial discussions on Wednesday lasted only 10 minutes, leading to immediate speculation that talks had broken down before they even began. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday not to read too much into it.

“Obviously, there's going to be ongoing meetings for the next couple of days with a range of officials,” she said. “We're just at the beginning here.”

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