The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

November 26, 2013

Marathon Iran nuke talks, asterisk and 'Danny Boy'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Way past midnight at an upscale Swiss hotel, negotiations hit the nitty-gritty on a breakthrough deal about Iran's nuclear program. There was a flurry of calls with the White House, pizza and talk about a tiny, but critical, asterisk in what became the final agreement.

Throughout it all, a band was crooning Irish folk tunes that seemed to grow louder as the tedious negotiations continued into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

On one side of the hotel's first floor, negotiators talked about centrifuges and uranium, hoping to ink the first step of a comprehensive agreement that could affect the world balance of nuclear weapons technology. Security was tight and an armored personnel carrier was parked outside.

On the other side of the floor, men in tuxedos and women in strapless gowns were partying at a noisy charity event that could be watched from the lobby below.

The final marathon day of negotiations began around 9 a.m. Saturday. Diplomats from Iran, the U.S., Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany as well as the European Union filed into the lobby, their security teams in tow. Their first challenge: negotiating a phalanx of reporters and photographers camped out.

After the arrivals, hours passed with no hint of what was happening behind closed doors.

About 10 hours into the negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry secretly slipped out of the hotel for about 30 minutes to buy truffles at Auer Chocolatier, a five-generation family business not far from Lake Geneva. The sweets were for his wife and family for Thanksgiving dinner.

The negotiations also paused for dinner. The U.S. delegation dined on different kinds of pasta ordered into Kerry's suite.

Throughout the day, Kerry felt that there was a chance for an agreement, a senior State Department official told reporters traveling on his plane Monday as it returned from Europe. But there was a point when he became dubious because Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif "looked anxious and appeared to be under pressure from Tehran," according to the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to discuss the talks by name.

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