MONTREUX, Switzerland - Simply demanding Iran's capitulation is no way to get a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday as he wrapped up three days of talks with a veiled dig at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kerry said he and Iranian counterpart Mohammad Jawad Zarif made some progress in their negotiations in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux and would resume them on March 15. Kerry aides said many obstacles remained before a late March deadline for an outline accord between Iran and six world powers.
"There are still significant gaps and important choices that need to be made," Kerry told reporters after more than 10 hours of talks all told with Zarif.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said in a speech in the US Congress that Washington was negotiating a bad deal with Iran that could spark a "nuclear nightmare," drawing a rebuke from President Barack Obama and exposing a deepening US-Israeli rift.
Kerry said politics and external factors would not distract from the talks, which aim to constrain Iran with intrusive UN access and verification of its nuclear activity and lengthen the "break-out" time needed for it to build any nuclear weapon.
"No one has presented a more viable, lasting alternative for how you actually prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. So folks, simply demanding that Iran capitulate is not a plan. And nor would any of our P5+1 partners support us in that position."
The other P5+1 countries are Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, who would all have to sign off on any deal.
Netanyahu has called for the powers to insist Iran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and change what he described as its "aggressive" regional posture -- an idea swiftly rejected by the Obama administration as equivalent to seeking "regime change" in Tehran. Israel and Iran have been arch-enemies since 1979.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, elected in 2013 on a platform of easing Iran's isolation abroad through diplomacy and a removal of sanctions imposed on it, said Tehran was prepared to accept greater nuclear scrutiny as part of a deal.
"If the basis of these negotiations is for increased transparency, we will accept greater transparency," he said in a statement. "But if the negotiations are trying to prevent the people of Iran from (enjoying) their inalienable right, in other words advancement in science and technology, it is very natural that Iran will not accept such an understanding or agreement."