(Reuters) – Iran’s top leader voiced mistrust on Saturday of U.S. efforts to reach a nuclear deal, even as Washington and its allies spoke of real progress and urged Tehran to take “difficult decisions”.
With just 10 days remaining until an end-of-March deadline for a framework agreement, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced U.S. “bullying” in the negotiations and repeated Tehran’s denial that it was seeking to develop a nuclear weapon.
After week-long talks with Iran in Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to London to confer with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany on prospects for resolving the dispute, which goes back more than a decade and has threatened at times to unleash a new war in the Middle East.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers said they agreed that “substantial progress” had been made with Iran in key areas, but some important issues remained outstanding.
“Now is the time for Iran, in particular, to take difficult decisions,” they said.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters the Western ministers were all in agreement that “we will not do a bad deal that does not meet our red lines”.
Together with China and Russia, the four countries are trying to reach a deal with Tehran that would restrict the most sensitive aspects of Iran’s atomic program in return for an easing of international sanctions.
U.S. ally Israel views Iran’s nuclear activities as an existential threat, despite Tehran’s strenuous denials that it wants to acquire nuclear weapons…