GENEVA — Iran has no intention of building a nuclear weapon, and the sooner the world recognizes that, the sooner there will be a deal aimed at curbing its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC News.
"Iran is not about building nuclear weapons," Zarif said in an exclusive interview with Ann Curry Wednesday. "We don't want to build nuclear weapons, we don't believe nuclear weapons bring security to anybody, certainly not to us."
Zarif said his country's nuclear ambitions were solely in the pursuit of "scientific advancement" and boosting national pride. "Once we reach that understanding, once this hysteria is out, once this fear mongering is out, then we can have a deal, and a deal that is not going to hurt anybody," he said.
He added: "We are prepared to work round the clock in order to reach an agreement. We believe that we are very close, very close and we could be very far." He said "there are details that need to be worked out."
"We are very close if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said," he said.
The minister spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the U.S. Congress, warning against a deal, which he said "paves Iran's path to the bomb."
Zarif has accused Netanyahu of trying to interfere in the negotiations, which involve the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany. Zarif said there is no validity to Netanyahu's predictions that Iran is a year or two of developing a nuclear warhead. "Mr.Netenyahu has been proclaiming, predicting that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within two, three, four years since 1992," Zarif said.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pushing hard for an accord, has also cautioned against distractions from "external factors or politics." Netanyahu's address to Congress at the invitation of Republican leaders was seen by some Democrats as a way to undermine the Obama administration's attempts to secure a deal.
Zarif told Curry that he hoped to reach a deal that would ensure that Iran's nuclear program "will always remain peaceful."
"There may be people have concerns there may be people who may have been affected by the type of hysteria that is being fanned by people like Mr. Netenyahu, and it is useful for everybody to allow this deal to go through."
For full transcript of Ann Curry's interview, click here.