By Pamela Dockins, VOA
VIENNA -With the prospects dim for an Iran nuclear agreement on the original June 30 deadline, U.S. officials launched a new round of talks, on Monday, with a chief nuclear regulator.
(cartoon by Mahmoud Nazari, Iranian daily Arman)
Secretary of State John Kerry led a delegation, in Vienna, that met with Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
As he headed into the talks at the ornate Palais Coburg hotel, Kerry said, “We are just working and it is too early to make any judgments.”
When asked if he expected Iran nuclear negotiators to reach an agreement, he said, “We will see.”
Notably absent, on Monday, was Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He flew back to Tehran, late Sunday, but is expected to return to Vienna Tuesday.
Iranian State media reports say his trip home had been planned in advance.
Kerry and Zarif met several times on Sunday. Kerry met with other officials, including British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Germany’s foreign minister, Frank - Walter Steinmeier.
WATCH: Pam Dockins reports from the scene in Vienna, Austria
Likely to continue
On Sunday, officials from Iran, the U.S. and European delegations acknowledged that talks were likely to continue past the self-imposed Tuesday deadline.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters the talks had "always been tough," but that negotiators could reach an agreement if there is "strong political will."
Delays have been the norm during the multi-year process that has brought Iran and the group of countries that includes the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany to this point in their talks.
Negotiators have been tight-lipped about details from the talks but the sticking points are believed to include access that inspectors from the U.N.'s nuclear agency would have to Iranian sites as well as the pace at which sanctions against Iran would be lifted.
Critical moment reached
In a VOA interview, State Department Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications Marie Harf said Secretary Kerry and the Iranians understand that they have reached a critical moment.
“We have some really tough work still left to do,” said Harf.
Some diplomats say the real deadline for finalizing an agreement is July 9. After that point, the period of time the U.S. Congress has to review the agreement would extend from 30 to 60 days.
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