TOP Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Akhbar Salehi gave an upbeat assessment of talks with Western powers in Lausanne yesterday, declaring that most major issues had been resolved.
Mr Salehi expressed optimism about meeting a late-March deadline for a framework deal after the talks made headway in recent weeks.
The two sides have moved closer on limitations on Iran’s nuclear activities that could be retooled to make weapons. In exchange, the West would progressively lift economic and political sanctions.
“The main issues have been closed. I hope that in the remaining time we can close this,” Mr Salehi told Iranian state TV.
The sides are working to meet two target dates — a framework in the next two weeks that lays down the outlines of an end of June deal.
An anonymous senior US official agreed that negotiators had made progress but he felt that they still had some way to go in eliminating differences on what Tehran had to do for a gradual end to sanctions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have taken the lead in what formally remain talks between Iran on one side and the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany on the other.
Most disputes focus on technical issues such as the numbers of centrifuges which Iran would operate as part of an agreement.
These machines can enrich uranium up to levels used for the fissile core of nuclear arms, although Iran insists that it only has energy, medical and scientific aims.
Mr Salehi and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined the talks last month to try to iron out technical differences.
Mr Kerry and Mr Zarif met for nearly five hours in Lausanne on Monday before the Iranians departed for Brussels for talks with European negotiators.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “We are entering a crucial time, a crucial two weeks,” while German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that after “more than 10 years of negotiations, we should seize this opportunity.”
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that all sides were committed to trying.