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Talks on Iran's nuclear programme could drag on for another year

Tomorrow is the deadline to reach agreement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leaves Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leaves Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna.
Image: AP Photo/Ronald Zak

IRAN HAS SIGNALLED its openness to having nuclear talks with world powers extended by up to a year if no real progress toward a deal is achieved later today, the eve of a deadline.

Foreign ministers holding marathon negotiations in the Austrian capital Vienna have been deadlocked in their efforts to secure a high-stakes nuclear agreement by Monday.

“We’re working hard,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday in Vienna, “and we hope we’re making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we’re working to close.”

Kerry, who on Friday postponed a trip to Paris to remain in Vienna for the talks, met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday afternoon, their fourth meeting in three days.

Another meeting was expected today.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also in the Austrian capital, called this final weekend of talks, after months of negotiations, a “moment of truth”.

Austria Iran Nuclear Talks Former EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, rear center, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, front left, wait prior. Source: AP Photo/Ronald Zak

At stake is a historic deal in which Iran would curb its disputed nuclear activities in exchange for broad relief from years of heavy international economic sanctions.

It could end a 12-year standoff that has even raised the prospect of Israeli military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. Kerry spoke to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Saturday.

An Iranian source told AFP that they are ”still focused on agreeing to a kind of political agreement” which would not be written but which would allow for negotiators to fine-tune technical aspects of the agreement later, the source said.

“But if between now and this afternoon or this evening we don’t get there, the solution is we consider an extension of the Geneva accord,” he said.

Such an extension would be under the terms of the Geneva accord that traded a temporary freeze on some aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief, the source said.

© – AFP 2014

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