WASHINGTON (AP) — The deadlocked international effort to sign a nuclear deal with Iran has spurred a global blame game over who walked away from the negotiating table and why.
It's a war of words playing out in public statements from top officials and across social media, with a bluntness that stands in stark contrast to the secretive and diplomatic nature of the negotiations themselves. And it raises questions about whether the debate will compound the years of mistrust between Iran and the West when the parties reconvene in Geneva for another round of talks next week.
The blame game centers on a seemingly basic point: Who put the brakes on what appeared to be last week's march toward an interim deal, one that would exact nuclear concessions from Iran and an easing of sanctions from the West? Was it Tehran or were there cracks in the so-called P5+1, a six-nation coalition comprised of the U.S., France, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and Germany?
According to U.S. officials, the answer is simple.
"The P5+1 were unified on the proposal that was put forward and that the Iranians did not accept that proposal — and that's a statement of fact," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.
Carney's words echoed assertions one day earlier from Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the U.S. and five other world powers were in agreement, "but Iran couldn't take it at that particular moment, they weren't able to accept that particular thing."
That comment earned a stern response on Twitter from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
"Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of U.S. draft Thursday night? And publicly commented against it Friday morning?" Zarif tweeted on Tuesday.
In an earlier tweet, after Kerry's news conference, the foreign minister wrote: "No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6 p.m. Thursday to 5:45 p.m. Saturday. But it can further erode confidence."
Zarif appeared to be alluding to French officials, who surprised many by publicly raising concerns in the middle of the talks that proposed limits on Iran's ability to make nuclear fuel don't go far enough. France also sounded alarms over a planned heavy water reactor that would produce greater amounts of byproduct plutonium, which can be used in nuclear weapons production.
Western officials quickly tried to gloss over France's concerns and insisted the international coalition was united. Diplomats later started telling reporters that it was Iran who scuttled the deal because the six powers would not agree to formally recognize the Islamic republic's right to enrich uranium.
The U.S. and allies contend Iran is seeking a bomb, while Tehran says it wants to enrich uranium for energy and medical purposes.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC