By Pamela Dockins, VOA
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
(by Iranian daily Arman)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA- A senior U.S. official says all parties at the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna plan to continue negotiating past the June 30th deadline.
The official added that Washington is not troubled by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif's decision to briefly return to Tehran for consultations with his government before the deadline that is two days away. The U.S. official said it was expected that participants in the talks would come and go from Vienna during the negotiations.
Earlier Sunday, the U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry held high-level talks with the Iranian delegation led by Zarif.
Kerry is also meeting with representatives from the other countries that comprise the so-called P 5 + 1, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini has said negotiators have some flexibility, when it comes to time.
In comments to reporters in Vienna, on Sunday, she said if a few more days are needed, negotiators can take them to secure an agreement that provides Iran sanctions relief while assuring world powers that Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons has been restricted.
She said the talks had “always been tough,” but negotiators could reach an agreement if there is “strong political will.”
On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said negotiators still needed to resolve some “very tough issues."
Watch: VOA's Pam Dockins report from Vienna
Tough issues unresolved
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Saturday that three conditions still needed to be worked out to ensure a successful agreement.
He said those conditions are Iran's acceptance of rigorous inspections of suspected nuclear sites, lasting limits on the country's research and development capacity and a mechanism to quickly re-impose sanctions on Iran if the country violates terms of an agreement.
Kerry met with Fabius later Saturday after the two held separate talks with Zarif.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (3rd from left) holding talks with with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (3rd from right)
(by Mostafa Ghotbi, Islamic Republic News Agency)
A senior State Department official said Kerry and Fabius spoke for about an hour. He said Kerry offered condolences on the terrorist attack Friday in France, and they discussed the attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait. He said they spent the rest of their time on the Iran talks.
In April, Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany agreed on a plan that was supposed to be the foundation for a final agreement that provided Iran sanctions relief while restricting Tehran's ability to make nuclear weapons.
A top Western diplomat, however, said major differences remained unresolved.
The diplomat, who spoke to reporters in Vienna on the condition of anonymity, said the most difficult issues must be worked out in the coming days, including U.N. inspections of Iran's sites, transparency, sanctions and the possible military dimensions of Iran's atomic program.
Questions about deadline
Some diplomats say the real deadline for an agreement is not June 30 but July 9. After that day, a mandatory congressional review period would extend from 30 to 60 days.
It would make sense for negotiators to work past June 30, if need be, to resolve outstanding issues, said analyst Emanuele Ottolenghi of theFoundation for the Defense of Democracies.
"It certainly makes sense if the pressure to meet the deadline is going to sort of bring the quality of the agreement into question," he said.
Ottolenghi said, however, that previous extensions in the Iran nuclear talks had resulted in more concessions in favor of the Iranian side.
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