‘No guarantee’ of final nuclear deal with Iran, European Union official says

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, second from left, and her delegation attended a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second from right, and his colleagues in Tehran on Sunday

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on Sunday that there was “no guarantee” that Iran and world powers would be able to reach a final, comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.

Ms. Ashton, who talked with Iranian leaders in Tehran, represents the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States), plus Germany, known as the P5-plus-1 group, which reached a six-month, renewable interim agreement with Iran in November to limit its nuclear program, a breakthrough after more than a decade of talks.

The temporary agreement obliged Iran to stop enriching uranium to high levels and to reduce its stockpile of near-weapons-grade uranium in return for the lifting of some economic sanctions, including access to $4.2 billion in Iranian cash frozen in foreign banks.

But on Sunday, Ms. Ashton tried to temper optimism about a final deal.

“This interim agreement is really important but not as important as a comprehensive agreement,” Ms. Ashton said at a joint news conference with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Because of the “difficult” and “challenging” nature of the process, however, “there is no guarantee that we will succeed,” she added.

Mr. Zarif, who has faced pressure from Iranian hard-liners who accuse him of selling out the country’s nuclear program, emphasized that his negotiators would agree only to a deal that respected Iran’s “rights,” a reference to the nation’s ability to enrich uranium independently on its own soil.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday at the start of a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Ms. Ashton should ask the Iranians about a merchant ship Israel seized in the Red Sea last week carrying what Israel described as an Iranian shipment of weapons intended for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Iran has rejected Israel’s allegations.

“Nobody has the right to ignore the true and murderous actions of the regime in Tehran,” Mr. Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his press office. “I think that it would be proper for the international community to give its opinion regarding Iran’s true policy, not its propaganda.”

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Note that the European women are forced to wear head coverings. The EU might have done better if they had sent men, especially if they were not wimps. But most European men are wimps these days.