World has never been 'closer' to nuclear deal: Iran FM

YOUTUBE

VIENNA (AFP) - A nuclear deal with Iran has "never been closer", Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a message Friday, also holding out the promise of greater cooperation to tackle wider global problems.

Speaking in English from the balcony of the Viennese hotel hosting the nuclear negotiations, Zarif said at "this 11th hour despite some differences that remain, we have never been closer to a lasting outcome."

"But there is no guarantee," he warned in the message posted on YouTube, saying "getting to yes requires the courage to compromise, the self-confidence to be flexible, the maturity to be reasonable."

Zarif stressed though that if there is "a balanced and good deal" then it could "open new horizons to address important common challenges.

"Our common threat today is the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism," the minister said in the four-minute message, in a clear reference to the Islamic State group.

"The menace we're facing - and I say we because no one is spared - is embodied by the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilisation. To deal with this new challenge, new approaches are badly needed," he said.

"Iran has long been at the forefront in the fight against extremism. I hope my counterparts will also turn their focus and devote their resources to this existential battle."

Zarif has been leading negotiations with US Secretary of State John Kerry, seeking to nail down a long-sought deal to curtail Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of biting economic sanctions.

Iran has long denied accusations that it has covertly sought to develop a nuclear bomb, insisting its atomic programme is for peaceful purposes only.

And Zarif hit out those who "stubbornly believe that military and economic coercion can ensure submission."

However, he insisted: "I see hope because I see the emergence of reason over illusion. I sense that my negotiating partners have recognised that coercion and pressure never lead to lasting solutions but to more conflict and further hostility.

"But they still need to make a critical and historic choice: agreement or coercion," he added.