U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he will continue to try to negotiate an end to the dispute between Iran and Western nations over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran and six world powers failed to reach an agreement on limiting the program. Negotiators had set a time limit in November. However, the U.S. Congress may not accept any deal even if the negotiators reach an agreement.
In September 2013, Mr. Kerry was hopeful as he began his first official meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Mr. Zarif says the two men discussed Iran’s nuclear program.
“Now, we have to see whether we can match our positive words with serious deeds so that we can move forward.”
Since then, the two men have met many times. Negotiators for Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany have been trying to reach an agreement on limiting Iran’s nuclear enrichment activity.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but some Western nations believe Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons.
If Iran agrees to limit its nuclear program, financial restrictions, called “sanctions,” could be eased. The sanctions have severely damaged Iran’s economy.
After a series of meetings in the first six months of this year, negotiators extended their talks to November 24th. Then the talks were extended again. Mr. Kerry told reporters the extensions were no guarantee that the talks would be successful.
“These talks aren't going to suddenly get easier just because we extend them. They're tough. And they've been tough and they're going to stay tough."
Mr. Zarif says one problem is neither side trusts the other.
“The major obstacle was that there is a compounded mistrust, mutual.”
Negotiators now hope to reach a deal by July. However, the change in power in the U.S. Senate might affect the talks. Republicans, who oppose many of the policies of President Obama, won control of the Senate. The Republican-controlled Senate may not agree to end sanctions quickly even if negotiators reach an agreement.
Robert Einhorn is a senior fellow at the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution, a research group. He says the Obama administration will wait for the International Atomic Energy Agency to report on whether Iran is cooperating with international nuclear inspections.
“The Obama administration believes that, with the new Congress that will be seated in January, it can’t go to them right away and ask for a vote to lift sanctions. They believe that the case will be much stronger later on, if and when the IAEA reaches a conclusion that Iran is in compliance.”
Mr. Einhorn says members of Congress may take action against Iran if negotiators do not reach an agreement soon.
“Members of Congress are anxious to impose additional sanctions. That could have a disruptive effect.”
Secretary Kerry says negotiators still have, in his words, “significant points of disagreement.” But, he says they believe an agreement is still possible.
I’m Christopher Cruise.
This story was reported by VOA State Department Correspondent Pam Dockins in Washington. Christopher Cruise wrote it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor. _____________________________________________________________
Words in This Story
positive – adj. good or useful
deed – n. something that is done; an act or action
enrichment – n. to improve the usefulness or quality of (something) by adding something to it
sanctions – n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, (usually plural)
compounded – v. to make (something, such as an error or problem) worse; to add to (something bad)
mutual – adj. shared between two or more people or groups
anxious – adj. wanting or eager to do or have something very much, especially because of fear or nervousness
impose – v. to cause (something, such as a tax, fine, rule, or punishment) to affect someone or something by using your authority
disruptive – adj. to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something)
significant – adj. very important
Do you believe Iran should be able to develop its nuclear program? Do you believe Iranian officials when they say they are using the program for peaceful purposes or do you agree with the Western nations who believe Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon? Do you believe Iran should be able to have nuclear weapons? We want to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments section.