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U.S., Iran blame each other for deal delay

Negotiations halted over the weekend

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered an ardent defense yesterday of President Obama as a strong foreign policy leader and “man of his word,” whose guarantee that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon should be heeded by doubters.

“Every time the president has said, ‘I’m going to do something,’ he has done it,” Kerry said at a news conference with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Obama’s Iran pledge, he said, “is a centerpiece of his foreign policy, and he will not bluff.”

Kerry’s remarks were clearly directed both at Israel, which has launched an international campaign to stop a potential U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran from being finalized, and U.S. lawmakers who charge that such an agreement would harm both American and Israeli security.

High-level negotiations over the weekend in Geneva were suspended, Kerry said, after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he needed further consultations with Tehran.

The deal, a confidence-building step in which disputed Iranian nuclear programs would be frozen in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions, remains in draft form.

Zarif yesterday directly contradicted Kerry’s public remarks on how the Geneva talks were suspended, disputing his assertion that Iran had walked away from a deal offered by the United States and five other major powers.

“No amount of spinning can change what happened,” Zarif wrote in one of a series of Twitter postings that blamed internal divisions among the Western powers for the talks’ suspension. “Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of U.S. draft Thursday night?”

Later, in an interview broadcast on Iranian television, Zarif suggested that Kerry’s characterization of the talks “damages confidence” among the negotiators. “The goal of dialogue is to reduce the lack of trust. Conflicting talk doesn’t give credit to the person saying it,” Zarif said.

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