VIENNA – Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks pushed past their second deadline in a week on Tuesday, raising new questions about the ability of world powers to cut off all Iranian pathways to a bomb through diplomacy. The discussions, already in their 12th day, were prolonged until possibly Friday.
“We knew it would have been difficult, challenging and sometimes hard,” said Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. She said the negotiations would continue despite hitting some “tense” moments, and the U.S. State Department declared the current interim nuclear arrangement with Iran extended through July 10.
As the latest target date arrived for a deal that would set a decade of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other top diplomats huddled in Vienna in search of a breakthrough.
All had spoken of deep differences remaining, and there was no public indication they had resolved disputes ranging from inspection rules on suspicious Iranian sites to limits on Tehran’s research and development of advanced nuclear technology.
“The last, difficult, political issues, we have to solve,” Mogherini said.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the parties “have never been closer to reaching a final agreement than we are now” but significant differences remain.
“That’s an indication that these talks, at least for now, are worth continuing,” he said.
A senior U.S. official in Vienna confirmed that one more clear difference had resurfaced, saying the U.S. would oppose Iran’s demand that the nuclear agreement also include the lifting of the U.N. arms embargo on the country. The official said the U.S. is insisting that any new U.N. Security Council resolution pertaining to Iran retain an arms ban and ballistic missile restrictions.
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