BACKGROUND BRIEFING: Senior U.S. Administration Officials on P5+1 Iran Talks

November 20, 2013
Geneva, Switzerland

 

MODERATOR:  Hello, everyone.  Welcome back to Geneva.  Thank you for coming tonight.  This is a background briefing.  I know there’s a lot of new faces in here, so I just want to make sure we all are clear on attribution.  This is attributable only to a Senior U.S. Administration Official – again, only to a Senior U.S. Administration Official.  [Senior U.S. Administration Official] will make some opening remarks, and then we’ll open it up for questions.  And I would – I’ll call the questions.  I would ask, when I call on you, if you’d please say your name and your outlet, just – again, there are a lot of new faces here and we want to make sure we know who’s in the room.

So with that, I will turn it over to our senior Administration official.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Good evening.  Good to see many of you again and the new faces as well.  And welcome back to another round of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and the international community’s concerns about affirming that, indeed, it is a peaceful nuclear program.

I know that many of you commented as we walked in here that that was a brief plenary.  The plenary this evening was meant as, in many ways, a kick-off sort of to lay a quick basis for how we are going forward.  The reason that we dashed over here is that there are a series of bilaterals this evening, beginning with the Russians, then the Europeans, and then the United States.  So [the Senior U.S. Administration Official] will go back to the – we will go back to the Palais for a bilateral this evening.  Then we will be picking up the process again tomorrow morning.

There has been just a little bit of noise in the public domain since we left Geneva 10 days ago.  A lot has been said about why or why we didn’t conclude a first-step agreement.  Lots of opinions have been exercised about what occurred.  Quite frankly, there is a whole lot of misinformation out there.  If this were easy to do, it would have been done a long time ago.  This is difficult.  This is tough.  There is a lot at stake for every country in the room.  The strongest thing that the P5+1 has had throughout this process is tremendous unity of purpose.  That unity remains.  There was a need for everyone to go back and consult in capitals, but an agreement that we should get back together quite quickly, which we have.  Ten days in diplo-speak is a pretty quick timetable to get everybody’s schedule lined up to come back.

What we’re focused on now is getting back to work, to really shut out the noise, to get into the nitty-gritty details of a possible first-step agreement and the parameters of a comprehensive agreement and to see if we can narrow the remaining gaps necessary to conclude such an agreement.  We are squarely focused exactly on that in all ways.  We had good meetings today with our P5+1 or E3+3 counterparts and in the plenary session.  We have a full slate of meetings coming up in plenary, bilaterally, and in coordination meetings with the E3+3.

I will say that the atmosphere is positive.  We all, I think, began the P5+1 sharing what Lady Ashton herself said, but we all have said, was our condolences for the lives lost in the Beirut Embassy bombing that just took place.  Whenever a diplomatic mission is targeted by terrorism, it is a horrible thing.  And when people’s lives are lost, it is a horrible thing.  And we feel that way when that happens in our embassies and we feel it as well for Iran.

That said, our focus here is on the nuclear talks to try to reach that first agreement, the general outlines of a comprehensive agreement, and to take this first difficult step to a period of time where we can negotiate a comprehensive agreement, which is very much our focus.  As Secretary Kerry said recently, we are not in a rush to just get any deal done.  We want to make sure that we’ve taken the time to ensure that this is a good deal, the right deal, and takes us a step towards a comprehensive agreement that ensures the international community that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful and that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.  The issue is very important, as you all know.  The details are very complicated.  And so we are working to get this first step to put time on the clock to negotiate a comprehensive agreement.  Time is not unlimited, but we think we are making very good progress and people have arrived back here with a commitment to do the hard work necessary to try to reach our common objective.

Happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  And just for the folks that came in late, again, this is all on background, Senior Administration Official.  Please, when I call on you, say your name and your outlet because there’s a lot of new faces here.

Let’s go ahead and start it right here.

QUESTION:  My name is Saeed Kamali Deghar from The Guardian.  There were some quotes by – they’re actually saying that difficulties remain, and there was no talks specifically about the text of the agreement today.  And it was not sure if there would be any talks tomorrow about the text of the agreement.  Can you please make comments about text vis-a-vis has there been any (inaudible) plan to discuss it tomorrow?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  We have all agreed that the document which was on the table at the end of our session last time will be the basis for our discussions going forward here.  And I certainly expect that will be talking about text.

MODERATOR:  Yes, right here.

QUESTION:  At the top, you said –

MODERATOR:  Name and outlet, please.

QUESTION:  I’m sorry.  Guita Mirsaeedi, Voice of America Persian.  At the top, you said that the plenary meeting was about how to proceed.  Could you explain about what you mean by how to proceed (inaudible) go back?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  We just talked about the basis on which we would go forward, the series of meetings that we wanted to have, the kinds of diplomatic statements that we want to make about what we hope to accomplish here.  That’s all.  It was a – truly a kick-off kind of plenary to set the tone by Lady Ashton and Minister Zarif for all of the delegations as we move into these discussions.

MODERATOR:  Scott, in the back.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Scott Peterson from the Christian Science Monitor.  Our understanding – one of the understandings about why a deal wasn’t actually made two weeks ago was that there have been adjustments made in some of the final stages to the actual P5+1 offer that was on the table.  If this is true – and I understand that it is true – then has the P5+1 also raised the level of the incentives that it’s offering to Iran commensurate with that?  Because we understand from some Iranian sources that – they’re concerned about that balance being maintained with this (inaudible).

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know I’m not going to negotiate through you all.  (Laughter.)

What I will say is that the negotiating process we had in the last round was very typical in that we had discussions, we had a working document among political directors that got sent back to capitals for comments.  Lady Ashton asked some of the ministers – in the first instance, Senator Kerry – to come to Geneva since some of the issues are particularly American issues, particularly on some of the sanctions.  Other ministers came as well.  Some of those concerns, the comments back from capitals, were put on the table.  The Iranians had concerns they put on the table.  We had discussions about them.  They were very serious.  They were very substantive.  And people decided that they wanted a little time to consider these discussions before seeing if we couldn’t narrow the remaining gaps and come to an agreement.

MODERATOR:  Yes.

 

QUESTION:  Nadia Bilbassy with Al-Arabiya Television.  Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, he said today that Iran’s right to enrich is a redline.  Is this a point that you can work around it, or is this a major obstacle that will prevent your (inaudible) from going further?

And do you share the optimism of William Hague today?  He said that you’re very close to signing a historical agreement.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  First of all, I always respect every foreign secretary whenever they speak, and I certainly hope that what he says turns out to be so.  He also – and all of the ministers, Secretary as well, are very skilled negotiators and know that until an agreement is reached, it hasn’t happened.  So you can get very close and not get there.  You can get very close and accomplish the objective.

I think we don’t know yet.  Secretary Kerry said the other day he didn’t have a particular expectation.  We were coming to go to work to try to get there.  And I think, from all of my colleagues, the approach in this round is we know what the remaining gaps are, let’s go to work, let’s see if we can get there in a way that is balanced, where all parties feel like this is a good agreement that heads us in the direction of the comprehensive agreement that will be negotiated during the time period of this first step so that the world can be assured that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION:  What about the redline?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  About right to enrich.  Iran has for a long time said that they believe they have an inalienable right to enrichment.  The United States has said for an equally long time that we do not believe any country – not just Iran – has a right to enrichment.  The Article IV of the NPT, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, is silent on the issue.  It neither confers a right nor denies a right.  So we don’t believe it is inherently there.

Do I believe this issue can be navigated in an agreement?  Yes, I do.  And we will see if that can be done or not.

MODERATOR:  Lou, over here.  Yes.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  A few weeks ago when we were talking about this, you identified a number of areas that were of concerns to the United States.  Secretary of State Kerry also mentioned that one of them was Arak, and the Iranians have said that this is another redline for them.  Obviously, these are negotiating issues that need to be worked through.  How important is it for the United States to get the issue of Arak worked out as well as the other sticking points?  Maybe if you could in general explain what they are?

And then one small sort of organizational thing that I think some of my colleagues would be interested in knowing:  What is it about the way that the talks have developed now has led to what seem to us to be more sort of draconian measures for the press?  And I’m not saying that the U.S. is at all involved in this.  It’s just that we’ve noticed a change, we’re being restricted, a lot of us are having difficulties.  And so just to get a sense of how it’s feeling on your end and how it came to this.  Thanks.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I’m going to let my colleague answer the last.  I was not aware that you all were facing issues.  I’m sorry about that, but I’m going to let [Moderator] answer that.

On what is in this agreement and what we care about, I think I have said before and happy to say again that we believe it’s important that a first step leading to a comprehensive agreement cover all of the existing enrichment facilities, and of course, any future enrichment facilities, which we hope there will be none and expect there to be none.  So it – to cover Natanz, Fordow, and Arak, that it cover the capacity of enrichment, that it cover stockpiles, that it cover verification and monitoring, and have general parameters for a comprehensive agreement.  And that the objective – our long-term objective also be present in an agreement.

So all of these areas need to be covered, and all of them need to be covered with the underlying principle, which we have said often before, which is the notion of this first step is to ensure that Iran’s program does not advance – and in some cases is even rolled back – during what is likely to be a six-month period of time that we can then use to negotiate a comprehensive agreement.

MODERATOR:  Do you want me to speak to the press issues a little bit?

QUESTION:  Sure.  I mean, I know you guys have been helping us, but it would be nice to get a sense of how –

MODERATOR:  Yeah.  I mean, well, I’d make a few points.  The first is obviously, we take very seriously the importance of talking to the press, which I think is underscored by backgrounders like this one, and endeavor to do so even in very tough schedules.  Obviously, we don’t control all of the spaces or locations around town where these talks are happening or where delegations are staying.  We are, as you noted, working with the folks at the hotel, with the local police and security, to get as much press access as possible, understanding that this isn’t always our decision.  We’re trying to work with them to negotiate workarounds to make it possible.

I know it’s frustrating, and we’ll just keep trying, and if we can’t get folks into the hotel, we’ll try and do workarounds to make it easier as well.  So I promise you we’ll keep working on it.  But it’s certainly not, on our side, by any means, by any shape or form an effort to crack down or not talk to the press as much.  That is in no way a decision that anyone on our side has made; in fact, the opposite, which is why we’re happy to do this.

Oh.  I’m calling questions still.  Go ahead, Jay.

QUESTION:  Another question –

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Who are you?

QUESTION:  Jay Solomon from The Wall Street Journal.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  The Supreme Leader gave this speech today that was pretty inflammatory in a lot of ways.  He called Israel a rabid dog, basically accused the United States of launching a nuclear attack on Japan after it had surrendered.  And the French Prime Minister’s office actually responded pretty critically.

For you, how closely do you watch the comments of the Supreme Leader as far as in your negotiations as a barometer for where Iran stands?  And how much do these types of outbursts concern you?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  It is always – we certainly do read Iranian press.  As you know, a member of our team is quite knowledgeable – more so than I am, certainly, and a Farsi speaker – and so we do keep up with what is being said.  And of course, I don’t ever like it when people use rhetoric that in any way talks about the U.S. in ways that I find very uncomfortable and not warranted whatsoever.  And it is, of course, of concern.

I do harken back to what President Obama said at the UN General Assembly, however.  There are decades of mistrust between the United States and Iran, and we certainly have had many people in our society say difficult things about Iran and Iranians, and not always necessarily made a difference between governmental decisions and culture and people and – this is a very difficult terrain is, I guess, my bottom line here, because there are these decades of mistrust.

So I would hope that neither in the U.S. nor in Iran would leaders use rhetoric that may work well in a domestic constituency, but add to the decades of mistrust on both sides.

MODERATOR:  Indira.

QUESTION:  Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News.  I wanted to ask:  As you’re well aware, there have been a lot – there’s been a lot of noise from Capitol Hill in the last 10 days –

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Really?  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  — about sanctions and what the EU might do.  And what is your response to those who insist that any easing of sanctions will basically open up the floodgate?  And even if you don’t ease sanctions on oil and banking, that it will be regarded as the U.S. turning a blind eye and not doing enforcements, and that everyone will rush back to do business with Iran and – and flout sanctions even that remain?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Well, first of all, in terms of members of Congress, they are a critical part of our government, their voices are very important.  They have their own prerogatives and exercise them vigorously.  And I’ve had the privilege to spend a good deal of time on Capitol Hill over the last few days trying to talk about what we’re doing.  The President, as you know, just had about a dozen members to the White House – I don’t remember what – yesterday, was it?  I’ve lost all track of time.

MODERATOR:  Mm-hmm, it was.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Thank you – yesterday for a couple of hours going through the detail of what we’re trying to accomplish.

And I think whether members agree with us or disagree with us, they now know, in no uncertain terms, that this is a very serious and substantive undertaking that is being very carefully done with a lot of attention to the detail that’s required to ensure that we do exactly what we say we are doing and no more.

And regarding your specific question, Indira, about sanctions, the sanctions relief that is being contemplated – if we get an agreement – is quite small and does not undermine in any way the core architecture of our oil banking and financial sanctions, which have to remain in place until we get a comprehensive agreement.

The areas under discussion, some of which began back in the Almaty proposal, are in particular sectors, and although confer some return for the Iranians, we don’t think for one minute we’ll be able – begin to unravel the international sanctions regime.  And quite frankly, if the United States were not negotiating in seriousness, trying to reach an agreement, that in and of itself might unravel the sanctions regime because the rest of the world, and certainly my P5+1 colleagues, believe this is a serious negotiation.  And if we were not engaged seriously, they would say the United States is not giving diplomacy a chance; why should we continue to enforce the sanctions that have been put on?

And then finally I would say, understanding business from a different time in life, this is a six-month agreement, and business operates on principles of certainty.  And there’s no doubt that some business will return to Iran.  Iran, to do all of the things we are asking Iran to voluntarily do in this agreement, they need to get some return.  So they will get some return in a balanced, targeted, limited and reversible way, and we believe that the only long-term benefits will come in a comprehensive agreement.  And we do not expect a flood of business to rush in on the basis of a six-month agreement that is voluntary, political commitment, which we think there are many ways to verify and monitor, and those verification monitoring is part of the agreement.  But at the same time, we don’t see on the basis of a six-month agreement, business rushing in.

MODERATOR:  Margaret Warner – oh, sorry.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  And, well, I’m going to add one thing.  And we will vigorously, vigorously enforce the vast majority of sanctions, which will remain in place.

MODERATOR:  Margaret Warner, in the corner here.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Margaret Warner, PBS NewsHour.  The items that you indicated you were talking about today, and Zarif people did as well, sound like process, and sort of overall goals and ways of working.  It sounded like the kind of things you would do early on in the first phase.  What’s more, Iran, she said, reportedly said that there was trust that had to be rebuilt.  Was the way the last meeting ended enough of a setback that you’re having to go back?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  No, I don’t believe so.  It was difficult.  These negotiations are difficult.  They are tough.  There are moments of tension, there are moments of even humor occasionally, there are moments of just the realities that we are trying to deal with complex, difficult issues that have really been in front of the international community for some time without a resolution.

We are now, I believe – have an ability to take a first step toward a comprehensive agreement.  That poses risks for everyone at the table.  We all have domestic constituencies.  We all have skeptics.  There are plenty of people in the world who think anything we do will be wrong.  There’ll be plenty of people in the world who will think anything we do is not enough.  And so this is a hard road to walk.  So there are going to be ups and downs.  But what I will say is that I believe that everyone has returned here with an attitude of getting down to work and seeing if we can’t close the remaining gaps.

QUESTION:  How should we interpret the comment about that trust need to be rebuilt?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  You’ll have to ask Deputy Foreign Minister Araqchi his own view of that.  We are working very hard, as all parties are, to work on a concrete basis of what people are willing to do, how we can close the gaps, how that can be verified, monitored, how we can ensure a balance so that we have an agreement that not only can be reached, but can be sustained and can be real.

MODERATOR:  Laura Rozen.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Laura Rozen from Al-Monitor.  If you and your colleagues, the other political directors, are able to narrow the gaps in the next couple days, do you anticipate that the foreign secretaries, the ministers, will be coming at the end of the week?  I noticed some of the security that’s a bit familiar (inaudible).  (Laughter.)

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I think the ministers will take their signal from the High Representative, and if she feels that it would be useful for them to come, that there is a reason for them to come, then she will let them know.  And they have all communicated with each other.  Secretary Kerry has spoken, I think, to every foreign minister before this round, they’ve all spoken with each other, and he’s certainly spoken with Lady Ashton several times.  So we will all work together on this.

MODERATOR:  I think I see Roy in the back.

QUESTION:  Roy Gutman of McClatchy.  Just to go back to the invitation the last time around, did I understand you correctly to say that Lady Ashton invited Secretary Kerry, and then a lot of other ministers decided to come as well?  I mean, what – was it unanticipated that you’d have all of these ministers here?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  No.  I think, Roy, it was the kind of situation where there was a specific reason for – that she asked him to come.  Other colleagues thought we were closing in.  It would be valuable to have ministers come.  Lady Ashton thought it might be valuable for all ministers to come, and so they did.  And it was valuable to have them all here, quite frankly.  We, I think, took some leaps forward as a result of their presence, and  because we could make some very tough decisions, and I think that it was very valuable.

MODERATOR:  Michael Adler in the back.

QUESTION:  Michael Adler from Breaking Defense.  I’m just curious how much groundwork has been done.  The last meeting ended with a plan being presented and Iran not accepting it.  And I understand they had a lot of counterpoints they brought up.  Before the meeting started today, was there a lot of contact?  Were there expert consultations?  And if not, does that mean that you’re talking at the political level, and that that would still have to go back to a technical level to iron out whatever agreement or compromise (inaudible)?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  There have – we – our experts do talk with each other on a regular basis – on an ongoing basis all of the time.  I’m sure they’re almost sick of each other at this point, and – (laughter) – though my colleague has the patience of a saint so he probably wouldn’t get fed up.  So there are ongoing consultations all of the time among our experts, among political directors.

And I think it’s not exactly right to say we put something down and they decided not to take it.  There are negotiations that go back and forth.  There were bilaterals with every foreign minister who was here.  There were discussions of points in the text by every foreign minister, both bilaterally, in groups, in the whole group.  There was a lot of process back and forth, and a lot of things to be discussed back in each of our governments.  But all of the political directors come here fully authorized to do what is needed.  Modern communication doesn’t make it hard if we have a question to get a very quick answer.  All of our governments know what is at stake here.  I don’t think any of us for a minute think we can’t get the job if we can get the job done.

MODERATOR:  Up here, yes.  You’ve been waiting very patiently.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Kirit Radia with ABC News.  Despite your best efforts, the Israelis are clearly not on board with this at this time.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s in Russia today trying to make his case there.  What can you do at this point to try to bring them along, and if you can’t, is that something that could get in the way of a deal?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  We have very close consultations with Israel, as we do with allies and partners throughout the world.  And we very much understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu, as the Prime Minister of his country, has to call things as he sees them.  And I think what’s most important is that the United States and Israel share a common objective, and that is to make sure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.  How we get there, we may have some tactical differences, but our objective is identical.  We will continue our close consultations and discussions, and we all want to get to the same place.

MODERATOR:  Mr. Dreazen also has been waiting very patiently.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Hi, Yochi Dreazen from Foreign Policy.  Given how much legwork has happened and how much you talked before, are these talks limited just to a (inaudible) agreement, or is there even general talk about what a comprehensive agreement might look like at the end of the road?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Yes, as I said, we believe that any agreement needs to cover all of the facilities, capacity, stockpile, verification monitoring, and at least the general parameters of what needs to be focused on for a comprehensive agreement.  The first step is a first step on the way to that comprehensive agreement.  It’s not an interim step.  It’s not an interim agreement.  It is a first step on the way, a first phase of that comprehensive agreement.  So you have to have some idea of where you’re headed to know what you want that first phase or first step to be, and that’s how we have approached this.  That’s how everyone has approached this.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Suzanne?

QUESTION:  Suzanne Kianpour with the BBC.  Is there a difference in tone in these talks versus the last?  And how confident do you think these talks will result in a deal?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I don’t know.  I think Secretary Kerry said it just right yesterday when he said that he was not sending our team here with a particular expectation except that we would get down to work and try to narrow the gaps and see if we could reach an agreement.  As I’ve said before, I think we can.  Whether we will, we will have to see, because it is hard.  It is very hard.

MODERATOR:  Paul?

QUESTION:  Paul Richter with LA Times.  One of the pieces of legislation that’s being prepared on the Hill regarding sanctions would have the U.S. sanctioning any international firm that provides access to the Iranian Government to its assets overseas.  And my question is:  Wouldn’t that kind of an amendment shut down because it would prevent the P5+1 from offering sanctions relief to the Iranians as part of the negotiation?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I don’t want to get into discussion about a particular piece of legislation that I don’t have sitting in front of me and can’t go through the details.  But to the general issue, the Administration has asked, as you well know, for a pause while we have these negotiations because we think that additional sanctions action on top of our already very extensive and effective sanctions at this moment would have the potential for unraveling the potential for an agreement.  I can’t guarantee it, but even if there’s some chance that it would, it would be better to take that pause because we’re not asking that there be no new sanctions forever, though I would hope that if we get an agreement, we can let that agreement actually take place.  The Congress has its prerogatives, as I’ve said.  They have been strong partners in this effort.  The international sanctions regime that’s in place has been immensely helped by the leadership in Congress on sanctions.  We will continue to consult very closely with Congress.  We work very closely with them on the sanctions issues and we are trying to do so now.

QUESTION:  As a follow:  What’s your reading now on how long it will be before Congress gets around to actively considering a sanctions amendment?  Because it looks like they’re not going to do it this week and not next week.  What’s your reading on how long you – what – how long of a breathing space you might have?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Let’s talk next week.

QUESTION:  I’m striking out here.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Sorry.

MODERATOR:  Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yes.  Hi.  John Zarocostas with GRN.  The report to the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the – in the technical cooperation agreement the Iranians indicated they would allow managed access to the heavy water reactors within three months.  Is that acceptable to the U.S., a three-month delay in access to the heavy water facilities?  And secondly, on the question of the NPT, do you think the Iranians are focusing on Article IV and you’re focusing on Article III-1?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Goodness gracious.  I may let the other senior official answer your questions in this regard.  I will say that we’re very grateful for the work that the IAEA does, and they will be a very important partner in any agreement that is reached in verification and monitoring and a very key player going forward.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  I think that’s probably the main thing to say here.  (Laughter.)

MODERATOR:  Michael.

QUESTION:  Article III-1?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Article III-1.  Are we focusing on different articles of the NPT?

QUESTION:  The Iranians are focusing on Article IV, the inalienable rights.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  The Iranians have talked about Article –

QUESTION:  There’s Article III-1 as well.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  They have talked about several articles in the NPT.  Let me go to that question, as opposed to at a technical level, at a political level.  They have talked about many articles in the NPT, and the issue is really whether in fact they have a peaceful nuclear program that the international community is confident is indeed peaceful and that they will not be in a position to acquire a nuclear weapon or be able to acquire a nuclear weapon.

And so what matters here is not the legalities of this article or that article, though we’ve certainly had those discussions in great depth.  What matters here is getting an agreement that deals with the concerns of the international community in a way that creates confidence to give us some time on the clock to reach a comprehensive agreement to ensure the world that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful.

MODERATOR:  Yes.  Michael Gordon.

QUESTION:  You said that the – this initial agreement will also include some general parameters about what the comprehensive agreement ought to be.  It’s a fairly vague phrase.  Could you explain that a little further?  Would this include – cover the duration of a comprehensive agreement, what the Iranian nuclear capacity might be?  Is it intended to be more the general principles that would guide negotiation for a comprehensive agreement or is it intended to define the end state of the comprehensive agreement?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Should we get this agreement, you can decide for yourself.  It’s – if it were highly detailed, we would have the comprehensive agreement.  So it’s not going to be highly detailed because that would be a comprehensive agreement.  It is going to set a direction.

MODERATOR:  I think that’s all the time we have for questions tonight.  I just want to make a few points to folks.  Normally we like to give a little more lead time for this.  I know we were rushed tonight, but we’re fitting this in, as our official said, at the beginning, before a series of a bilaterals tonight.  So we will endeavor to give as much lead time as possible.  I know folks were rushing and I appreciate everyone’s flexibility.

Also, for those who came in late, this is on background, Senior Administration Official.  That also means no photos.  I’ve seen people taking photos.  Guys, that’s not okay.  Please don’t do it or you won’t be allowed to attend these briefings in the future.  We do this for a reason on background and I appreciate everyone adhering to the ground rules.

So as always, if you have – what?

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR:  I think we have to run, guys.  I’m sorry.  If you have follow-ups, you know how to email me and we can endeavor to answer them as well.  Thanks, guys.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Thank you all very much.

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