TEHRAN - The United States said Monday no state has the existing right to enrich uranium, as Iran and the UN watchdog agreed on a “roadmap for cooperation” over its nuclear programme.

As France said world powers were still close to an agreement with Iran on its disputed nuclear drive, US Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Islamic republic of scuttling the latest efforts to end the deadlock. Speaking in Abu Dhabi, the top US diplomat insisted a deal with Iran would protect Israel and America’s Gulf allies, saying “war should be the last resort” and that no state has “existing right to enrich”.

“The P5+1 was unified on Saturday when we presented our proposal to the Iranians... But Iran couldn’t take it, at that particular moment they weren’t able to accept,” said Kerry, who took part in the talks.

On Sunday Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said his government would not abandon its nuclear rights, including uranium enrichment.

“The rights of the Iranian nation and our national interests are a red line. So are nuclear rights under the framework of international regulations, which include enrichment on Iranian soil,” said Rouhani.

His remarks came a day after intensive negotiations with world powers made progress but failed to produce a long-elusive deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear activities. The so-called P5+1 group and Iran will reconvene again in Geneva on November 20 to try to iron out differences.

The broad outline of the agreement is said to include a freeze of part or all of Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for the easing of sanctions.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached an accord with Iran on a “roadmap for cooperation” during a visit to Tehran by the head of the UN watchdog, Yukiya Amano.

“The joint statement that was signed today details a roadmap for cooperation that determines mutual steps to resolve remaining issues,” Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said at a news conference with Amano. Amano hailed the deal as “an important step” but added “much more must be done”, in remarks carried by ISNA news agency.

Salehi said that as a gesture of goodwill, IAEA inspectors would be allowed to visit the heavy water plant in Arak as well as Gachin uranium mine in the south.

At least a year from completion, the Arak reactor is a major source of concern for Western powers who fear the plutonium it will produce as a by-product could provide Iran with a second route for making fissile material for an atom bomb.

Iran has long been adamant it wants to produce isotopes solely for medical and agricultural purposes at the Arak plant.

The IAEA chief’s visit was aimed at resolving technical issues linked to the body’s role in monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities. Broader questions of how to ensure Iran’s nuclear drive is not being used to mask a drive for atomic weapons are being discussed in negotiations between Iran and P5+1 powers - Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro on Monday sought to quell Israeli fears over an emerging deal with Iran, vowing that Washington would never let Tehran acquire a nuclear weapon.

“On this crucial issue the US and Israel share an identical agenda,” Shapiro told delegates attending the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Jerusalem.

US President Barack Obama “has made it crystal clear that he will not permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon period, and is prepared to use all elements of our national power to ensure that we are successful,” he said.

His remarks were made as the US and Israel were locked in an escalating war of words over negotiations between world powers and Iran in a bid to halt its nuclear programme, which is widely believed to be a front for developing a military capability.