By Julian Pecquet - 11/21/13 04:55 PM EST
A second day of nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva wrapped up Thursday with “no progress” on major points of disagreement, a top Iranian diplomat said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi made the comments to Iran's Mehr news agency, according to the AFP, after earlier telling reporters that his side had “lost trust” in America and its partners. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's comments Wednesday calling Israel a “rabid dog” continued to cast a pall over efforts to reach a temporary agreement that would freeze Iran's nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions.
"We cannot enter serious talks until the trust is restored,” The Washington Post quoted Araghchi as saying. “That doesn’t mean that we will stop negotiations.”
And the foreign minister of France – the country that objected to a deal two weeks ago because it wasn't seen as tough enough – reiterated that a deal can “only be possible based on firmness.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, pressed to denounce Khamenei's comments, called them “inflammatory” but said he did not want to “exacerbate” tensions while a deal remains at hand. Meanwhile the State Department's spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, continued to put a positive spin on the talks.
“Our negotiators are making progress. But as we all know these issues are complicated and require time to hash out,” Psaki told reporters in Washington. “As Secretary Kerry has said, we're not in a rush to make just any deal. We're working very hard to make sure we get a good deal.”
And Michael Mann, the spokesman for the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, for his part tweeted: “Day of intense, substantial and detailed negotiations on Iran nuclear programme, conducted in good atmosphere; talks to continue tomorrow.”
In a weirdly timed decision, however, the State Department released an updated travel warning for Iran that highlights the administration's continued misgivings about the Islamist regime.
"Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States," says the message to travelers. "Iranian authorities also have unjustly detained or imprisoned U.S. citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security. U.S. citizens of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) added new urgency to the talks on Thursday when he announced his intention to bring up new sanctions legislation when the Senate returns from Thanksgiving recess. The White House had pressed the Senate to delay action while talks are ongoing.
“A nuclear weapons capable Iran presents a grave threat to the national security of the United States and its allies and we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring this capability,” 14 senators of both parties said in a joint statement late Thursday. “We will work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”
The statement was signed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
A State Department official told The Hill that the administration was “pleased” with Reid's decision to delay action until December but asked him for "space" to negotiate.
“Both the president and the Congress have a responsibility to fully test whether we can achieve this peacefully, before pursuing other opportunities,” the official said. “We hope that Leader Reid will continue to give the president and our ... negotiating partners the space they need to pursue these negotiations in the future, if necessary.”
Update: An earlier version of this post reported Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was part of a bipartisan statement pushing for new sanctions, based on inaccurate information provided by Sen. John McCain's office.
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