No deal better than a bad deal, Kerry says after failure of talks with Iran

By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the major world powers remain united on reaching a deal with Iran that would lead to it abandoning any efforts to build nuclear weapons. He spoke after the failure of talks Saturday in Geneva with Iranian diplomats. An agreement had seemed imminent on Friday when Kerry flew to Geneva from Israel.


“I think there was unity (among western diplomats) there, David, with respect to getting it right,” Kerry told NBC’s David Gregory on Meet the Press. “And we all have said, President Obama has been crystal clear. Don't rush. We're not in a rush. We need to get the right deal. No deal is better than a bad deal.”

He added,” We are absolutely determined that this would be a good deal, or there'll be no deal.”

The United States, France, Germany and other nations have agreed with Iranian diplomats to resume talks on Nov. 20.

Kerry explained that “a number of nations, not just the French, but ourselves and others wanted to make sure that we had the tough language necessary, the clarity in the language necessary to be absolutely certain that we were doing the job and not granting more or doing something sloppily that could wind up a mistake.”

The election of President Hassan Rouhani last July led to new efforts on both sides to come to terms on Iran’s nuclear program and to avert any military attack by the United States or Israel on Iranian nuclear sites.


The chance for success in the negotiations with Iran “has changed since the election (of Rouhani).” Kerry said. “This is a new overture. And it has to be put to the test very, very carefully.”

Meanwhile Rouhani on his Twitter account repeated a statement he had made to the Iranian parliament Sunday after the failure of the talks. “For us, there are red lines that cannot be crossed. Our national interests are our red lines - incl enrichment & other rights under intl law,” Rouhani said – a referring to Iran’s insistence that it been allowed to continue its research on enriching uranium for research purposes. Highly enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons.

Kerry described a plan in which there would first be a preliminary deal that would freeze certain parts of Iran’s nuclear development program, followed later by a final agreement.

Kerry said the United States and its allies “are together, unified, pushing for things that we believe provide the guarantees that Israel and the rest of the world demand here. But one thing is clear, is that we're not going into a full deal and giving away something.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to step aboard his aircraft in Geneva, November 10, 2013. Jason Reed / REUTERS

But Kerry said that the United States, France and the other nations had to show some willingness to ease up on the trade and financial sanctions which they have imposed on Iran, in order to demonstrate some good faith to Rouhani and other Iranian leaders.

“We voted for these sanctions in order to bring Iran to the negotiating table,” Kerry said. “Now that they're there, you have to act in some good faith, and an effort to be able to move towards the goal you want to achieve.”

He explained that if “as their act of good faith, they freeze their program and allow us absolutely unprecedented access to inspection and do other things,” then the United States and its partners must respond by giving the Iranians some of what they want – specifically, a letup in some of the economic sanctions.