Iran talks miss another deadline, to go all week
Global powers wrestling for a deal to curtail Iran's suspect nuclear programme failed to meet another deadline Tuesday, with all sides vowing to now keep working until the end of the week.
"We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters during a break in negotiations in Vienna.
But the United States said the terms of a November 2013 interim accord under which Iran has been cutting back its stock of enriched uranium in return for sanctions relief would be extended until Friday, July 10, meaning this is the effective new deadline.
"We have never been closer, than we've ever been on this agreement, and we are still not where we need to be to finalise a deal," a senior US administration official said.
Negotiators were taking the talks "day by day" as they seek to slot into place the last pieces of a complex negotiation which has lasted almost two years now to deny Iran a nuclear bomb in return for sanctions relief.
It was the fifth time since 2013 -- and the second time in this round of talks -- that negotiators have missed their own target date as talks have bogged down.
Mogherini insisted though it was still possible to overcome the remaining differences and reach a deal to draw a curtain on a 13-year standoff with Iran.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is remaining in Vienna with Mogherini and their Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Their Russian and Chinese counterparts had already left.
"I think there is a clear will on both sides now to complete this agreement and to keep at it until we get there," said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond before also flying home for 24 hours for budget talks.
After talking deep into the night Monday, foreign ministers from the so-called P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- met three times Tuesday without their Iranian counterparts.
"If very tough political decisions, hard choices, can get made soon, I do believe we can get to an agreement ... it is possible," the US official said.
For many observers July 9 had always been the real deadline, and the US team now has its back against the wall trying to nail down the final details by then.
If Kerry fails to hand over a deal by late Thursday, US lawmakers will get 60 days instead 30 to review it, which risks further complicating its implementation.
- Arms ban to remain -
Despite progress on a series of complicated annexes, negotiations have stalled on how to ease sanctions against Iran, probing allegations that in the past Tehran sought to develop nuclear arms, and ensuring Iran can continue to have a modest, peaceful nuclear programme.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed there was also disagreement over the issue of lifting of a UN conventional arms embargo which bans sales of convention weapons such as tanks and missiles to Tehran.
"I can assure you that there remains one major problem that's related to sanctions: this is the problem of an arms embargo," Lavrov told Interfax from Vienna.
Iran has urged that the UN arms embargo be lifted.
But US officials insisted there would be "ongoing restrictions on arms just like there will be ongoing restrictions regarding missiles" in any nuclear deal, which is to be endorsed by a resolution in the UN Security Council.
Negotiators are already drawing up a draft resolution which would also address the nuclear-related bans on arms trade and ballistic missiles, the senior administration official said.
While Iran has a right to conventional missiles "what we are concerned about is missile techology that becomes a delivery system for a nuclear weapon."
© 2015 AFP