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Ashton Plays Down Hopes Of Iran Nuclear Deal


EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a news conference in Tehran on March 9
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has cautioned there is "no guarantee" that talks with Tehran over its disputed nuclear program will lead to a comprehensive final deal.

Ashton made the remark at a joint press conference in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

"I want to if I may commend Minister Zarif and his team for the work that they have done. I've been engaged in discussions with Iran for nearly four years on these issues, and I think this interim agreement is really really important, but not as important as the comprehensive agreement that we are currently engaged in," Ashton said. "Difficult, challenging, there is no guarantee will succeed, but It think it's very important -- with the support of the people of Iran for the work that is going on by the minister [Zarif] and his team and with the support of the international community for my work -- that we should aim to try and succeed."

Zarif said Iran is determined to reach a "mutually acceptable agreement."

He said the final nuclear deal was possible to reach within months.

However, Zarif said Iran will only accept a deal that respects the country's "rights."

"I believe if that is the case we can do it even within the five months or four months that are left of the first phase and even [sooner]. But that requires recognition that Iran will only accept a solution that is respectful -- that respects the rights of the Iranian people," Zarif said. "And at the same time, Iran finds it in its own interests to make sure that there are no ambiguities about Iran's intentions because we have no intention to seek nuclear weapons."

Iran and six world powers, represented by Ashton, reached an interim deal in Geneva in November aimed at ending a decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear activities.

Under the interim deal, Tehran agreed to freeze some nuclear activities for six months in exchange for partial sanctions relief.

Iran is seeking to reach a final deal to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Last week, Zarif said Tehran has based all its "calculations on the success" of nuclear negotiations with world powers, saying that "it's a better option for everybody."

Ashton arrived in Tehran on March 8 for meetings with Iranian officials on negotiations over the country's nuclear program as well as bilateral, regional, and international issues.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters