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Iran deal elusive as talks continue

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

GENEVA — With a boost from Russia and China, Secretary of State John Kerry mounted a major diplomatic push on Friday to reach an interim nuclear deal with Iran, despite fierce opposition from Israel and uncertainty in Congress.

Kerry and his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany participated in talks after a full day of negotiations on Thursday. They said obstacles remain in the way of an agreement offering sanctions reductions for nuclear concessions.

Word that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and a Chinese deputy foreign minister were headed to the talks provided fresh hope for at least an interim deal, perhaps on Saturday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted any agreement in the making is a “bad deal” that would give Iran a pass by offering to lift sanctions for cosmetic concessions that, Netanyahu said, would leave intact Tehran's nuclear weapons-making ability.

Kerry tempered reports of progress, warning of “important gaps” that must be overcome.

Asked about Netanyahu's criticism, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said “any critique of the deal is premature” because an agreement has not been reached.

“The United States and Israel are in complete agreement about the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Lavrov would join the talks, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported. His deputy, Sergei Ryabov, was quoted as saying Moscow expects negotiations to produce a “lasting result expected by the international community.”

A Western diplomat in Geneva told The Associated Press that China is sending a deputy foreign minister to the talks. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide such information.

“We are reaching a very critical, important point,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in comments broadcast on Iranian PressTV. “The negotiations have reached its critical, very sensitive situation, and it needs decisions at higher levels.”

Any agreement would be a breakthrough in light of nearly a decade of mostly inconclusive talks.

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