After years of fruitless negotiations, Western and Iranian diplomats are on the verge of an agreement that would freeze Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for an easing of some economic sanctions.
Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel here on Friday at the invitation of Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, in an effort "to help narrow differences," a senior State Department official said. If that goes well, the pact could be announced later in the day, Iranian officials said.
But even as the two sides tried to finalize the agreement on Thursday, fissures have widened between the United States and some of its principal allies over the potential pact, which has been hailed by the Obama administration as a possible breakthrough in the standoff over Iran's nuclear aspirations but dismissed by critics as a temporizing measure that would leave the core of Tehran's atomic program intact.
But Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said an interim agreement would go over badly with the allies and in Congress.
"Even if we get this de minimis interim deal from Iran, we could be in serious trouble," he said. "The Israelis and Saudis are already freaking out about the dangers of any interim deal. This would demonstrate to them and Congress that the Obama administration has entered the Persian nuclear bazaar and gotten totally outnegotiated."