US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L) shakes hands with head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi.
(photo by Islamic Republic News Agency)
U.S. and Iranian negotiators are set Friday to continue a final round of talks on Tehran's nuclear program, as a March 31 deadline to reach a framework deal draws closer.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Thursday with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Lausanne, Switzerland. Both sides have expressed optimism a deal can be reached.
Senior diplomats of the other so-called P5+1 nations participating in the talks are expected to soon join their Iranian and U.S. counterparts, as diplomacy heats up ahead of the deadline.
On Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he sent a letter to the six world powers "explaining Iran's position on nuclear issues and latest developments" in the negotiations. U.S. officials confirmed receiving the letter, but did not disclose its contents.
Speaking via Twitter, Rouhani also said he spoke with the leaders of China, Russia, France and Britain, emphasizing that all "unjust" sanctions against Iran must be dropped.
Iran wants international sanctions against it immediately dropped as part of a nuclear deal, while the U.S. and others say the sanctions should be lifted gradually.
There is also disagreement over other issues, including the amount and quality of enriched uranium that Iran would be able to develop.
The talks are being complicated by the worsening conflict in Yemen, where a coalition of Arab nations, backed by U.S. diplomatic and technical support, are attacking Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Iran has slammed the attacks as inappropriate foreign intervention. But officials in both Washington and Tehran have said the issue will not affect the nuclear discussions.
Iran and the P5+1 partners - the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany - have said it is crucial to reach a framework deal before March 31. But the hard deadline for a deal is the end of June.
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