- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2013

Secretary of State John F. Kerry departed Washington on a hastily scheduled trip to Geneva on Friday evening, as anticipation mounted over the possibility that a deal between the U.S., Iran and other world powers over Iran’s disputed nuclear program may be imminent.

In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Mr. Kerry was heading to the Swiss city, where the latest round of nuclear talks have been underway since Wednesday, with the “goal of continuing to help narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement.”

Negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 group — the U.S. and fellow U.N. Security Council permanent members France, Britain, China and Russia, plus Germany — have struggled throughout the past month to settle on the specific language of a deal. The deal is expected to see the U.S. begin to ease economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for an agreement from Iranian leaders to halt major sections of their nuclear program and open it to close international scrutiny.

Foreign ministers from the P5+1 nations converged on Geneva during a previous round of talks two weeks ago, but the talks ultimately recessed without a deal after Iran reportedly refused to agree to language that would require it to halt all uranium enrichment activities.

The U.S. and its allies, including Israel, which is not party to the talks but has been played a vocal role on the sidelines during recent weeks, have long suspected that the Islamic republic is enriching uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders claim the program is purely for peaceful purposes, including for civilian electricity generation and medical research.

While the Obama administration has suggested it is willing and ready to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining a bomb, the White House has since early this fall pushed hard for a diplomatic solution to the tensions.

A breakthrough is likely to anger Israel and several lawmakers in Washington, who argue that Iran has eluded international nuclear inspectors for years and cannot be trusted, and have warned the Obama adminstration against rushing into a deal.

The latest round of talks in Geneva are expected to develop into the weekend.