Iran nuclear deal edges closer but Zarif says talks may go on

Iran nuclear deal edges closer but Zarif says talks may go on
# 13 July 2015 19:51 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Iran and six world powers appeared close to a deal on Monday to give Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, but Iranian officials said talks could run past their latest midnight deadline and success was not guaranteed, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States wore grim expressions as they met and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sat in silence when asked if the deadline might be extended or if he could rule out an extension.

"There shouldn't be any extension," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. "But we can continue the talks as long as necessary."

Zarif spoke with Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini for more than an hour, but U.S. and Iranian officials had no immediate comment on what was discussed.

One of Zarif's deputies also sounded a cautionary note.

"I cannot promise whether the remaining issues can be resolved tonight or tomorrow night. Some issues still remain unresolved and, until they are solved, we cannot say an agreement has been reached," Iran's Tasnim news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi as saying in Vienna.

Diplomats close to the talks said there were contingency plans for an announcement ceremony if the negotiators sealed an agreement, which would open the door to ending sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy, in exchange for at least a decade of curbs on its nuclear program.

The Western powers in particular suspect Iran may have sought to use its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says the program is solely for peaceful purposes.

The six major powers have given themselves until Monday to reach a deal. If they fail to get one by midnight, they will need to extend the terms of an interim nuclear deal with Tehran that has already been extended three times in two weeks.

Another option is to walk away, something both the Americans and Iranians have said they are willing to do. They could also suspend the talks for a few weeks or months, though Iran has said it opposes this.