Britain urges Iran to show more flexibility in nuclear talks
LONDON - Britain on Monday urged Iran to show more flexibility in talks on its contested nuclear programme as an end-June deadline looms after years of tortuous negotiations with the West.
"There will need to be some more flexibility shown by our Iranian partners if we are going to reach a deal," British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said.
"I think the serious negotiations are now getting underway and over the next week, I hope to start to see some progress," Hammond said.
"We are pushing hard to get there now."
Hammond was speaking as he arrived for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg where he will also hold talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif.
EU diplomatic sources said over the weekend that Zarif would meet several of his EU counterparts on Monday, including Hammond, France's Laurent Fabius, Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini.
Fabius warned Sunday that any deal with Iran had to be tough and verifiable to ensure no backsliding.
"We think that we must be extremely firm and that, if an agreement is to be reached, that agreement must be robust," Fabius said at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jersusalem.
"That means that it must be able to be verified," Fabius added.
Iran and the P5+1 powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- agreed in April on the main outlines of what would be a historic deal scaling down Tehran's nuclear programme.
The two sides, having missed a March 31 deadline, set a new date of June 30 to finalise the accord and negotiators have been meeting regularly in Vienna and elsewhere since then to hammer out a deal.
The west fears that Iran's nuclear programme has military objectives but Tehran insist is for purely peaceful energy development purposes.