Rouhani writes to Obama as Iran talks near deadline

Iran’s president today appealed to global leaders including Barack Obama as negotiators raced against the clock to agree the outlines of a deal that puts an Iranian nuclear bomb out of reach.

Hassan Rouhani wrote to the American president, US officials confirmed, as well as to the leaders of the five other powers heading efforts to resolve the 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The content of the letters was not known. But Rouhani, whose 2013 election led to the current diplomatic push, also phoned the leaders of Russia, China, Britain and France, his office said.

“We are acting in the national and international interest and we should not lose this exceptional opportunity,” Hassan Rouhani told British Prime Minister David Cameron by phone, the presidency said.

“Hope was expressed for success at the new round of talks in Lausanne,” the Kremlin said after Rouhani spoke with President Vladimir Putin, while noting with “satisfaction the progress” made.

Francois Hollande, “insisting on Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear power, insisted on the need to work towards a lasting, robust and verifiable agreement,” the French presidency said.

Highlighting the difficulties of talks that resumed in Switzerland Thursday between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Rouhani also said Iran wants all sanctions lifted.

“The peaceful character of (Iran’s) nuclear activities and the necessity to annul all the unjust sanctions can lead us to a final deal,” Rouhani’s office quoted him as telling Cameron.

The six powers negotiating with Iran — the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — are however insisting that sanctions will only be suspended, not lifted, to enable them to be quickly put back in place if Tehran violates the deal.

Cameron “emphasised the importance of Iran showing flexibility on the outstanding issues in order for a deal to be reached,” Downing Street said afterwards.

Kerry’s talks in Lausanne with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and officials from the powers are aimed at agreeing the outlines of a nuclear deal by March 31 after two missed deadlines in 2014.