Lavrov says deadline for Iran deal 'not sacred'
Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday a November 24 deadline to strike a nuclear deal with Iran is "not sacred", in the strongest suggestion yet of a possible extension from one of the six powers negotiating with Tehran.
"I am sure that a compromise is possible. But I cannot guarantee that this can absolutely be done by November 24. This is not a sacred date," Sergei Lavrov said in Paris after meeting US counterpart John Kerry.
"We aspire to get a result by that date but I am convinced by the principle that it is not artificially-set deadlines but the essence of the deal, the quality of the deal (that counts)," Interfax cited Lavrov as saying.
Iran and the six powers -- the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- have been negotiating intensively for months on a deal that would see Tehran reduce in scale its nuclear programme in return for relief from painful sanctions.
After more than a decade of rising tensions, this would ease long-held fears -- rejected by Iran -- that the Islamic republic wants to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian atomic activities.
But the two sides already pushed back an original deadline of July 20 by four months and difficulties in the talks have prompted speculation -- stoked by comments by Iranian officials floating such a possibility -- of another extension.
Kerry, due to hold talks in Vienna Wednesday with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in Paris earlier that "tough issues" remain to be resolved but that a deal was still "within reach" before November 24.
"I don't think anything is served by a lot of speculation at this point in time," Kerry said.
© 2014 AFP