U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has denied that disagreement among world powers thwarted a nuclear deal with Iran on November 9 in Geneva.
Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers consisting of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany last week held three days of intensive talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Expectations were high that a compromise was finally possible after years of stagnation in the negotiations. But the Geneva talks ended without an agreement to help allay Western concerns that Iran may be seeking a nuclear-weapons capability -- a charge that Tehran denies.
Amid reports that France's reservations sank the deal, Kerry told reporters on November 11 in Abu Dhabi that the major powers presented a united front but that the Iranians were not ready to accept the offer.
"There was unity, but Iran couldn't take it. At that particular moment, they were not able to accept that particular agreement," Kerry said.
More talks between Iran and six world powers are expected on November 20. Kerry said progress had been made in Geneva and he hoped a deal could be completed within months.
"Our hope is that, in the next months, we can find an agreement that meets everybody's standard," Kerry said.
But the top U.S. diplomat made clear that Washington was not rushing to close a deal.
"This is not a race to complete just any agreement. No deal is better than a bad deal, I have said many times, as has [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama," Kerry said.
Kerry also said he was confident such an agreement would protect U.S. ally Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced a potential agreement as "dangerous," but Kerry said Israel's concern was premature.
"So, the time to oppose it is when you see what it is. Not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible," Kerry said.
In a related development, the UN's atomic watchdog signed a joint "road map for cooperation" with Iran on November 11 in Tehran.
The accord, signed in Tehran by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, grants UN inspectors "managed access" to the Gachin uranium mine and the Arak heavy-water plant within three months.
Amano made the announcement at a joint news conference with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, in Tehran:
"Under the framework for cooperation, Iran and IAEA will cooperate further, with respect to verification activities to be undertaken by the IAEA, to resolve all present and past issues," Amano said.
Salehi said the approval for the deal came from the country's National Security Council, whose chief is President Hassan Rohani.
"We were given permission by the National Security Council to allow the IAEA's investigators to visit and investigate the heavy-water [reactor] site in Arak," he said.
Under the deal, Iran will also provide information about planned new research reactors and sites for future nuclear power plants.
With reporting by AFP, dpa, BBC, and Reuters