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Monday, November 24, 2014

Iran nuclear talks extended 7 months after failing to meet deadline

Iran and six powers failed for a second time this year to resolve their 12-year stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, and gave themselves seven more months to clinch an historic deal.

Western officials said they were aiming to secure an agreement on the substance of a final accord by March but that more time would be needed to reach a consensus on the all-important technical details.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, trying to win relief from crippling international economic sanctions by patching up relations with the West, said the gap between the sides had narrowed at the latest round of talks in Vienna.

"It is true that we could not reach an agreement but we can still say that big steps have been taken," he told state television.

US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a more guarded assessment, saying "real and substantial progress had been made but adding that "some significant points of disagreement" remained.

"These talks are not going to get easier just because we extend them. They're tough. They've been tough. And they're going to stay tough," he told reporters in the Austrian capital.

The cost of failure could be high. Iran's regional foes Israel and Saudi Arabia fear a weak deal that fails to curtail Tehran's potential to produce a nuclear weapon. A collapse of the talks would spur Iran to become a threshold nuclear weapon state, something arch-foe Israel has said it would never allow.

Under an interim deal reached by the six powers and Iran a year ago in Geneva, Tehran halted higher-level uranium enrichment in exchange for a limited easing of the financial and trade sanctions which have badly damaged its economy, including access to some frozen oil revenues abroad.

Today marked the second time a self-imposed deadline for a final settlement has passed without any deal. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters that the target date had been extended to June 30, 2015.

"We remain convinced that, based on the progress made and on the new ideas which continue to be explored, there is a credible path through which a comprehensive solution can be reached," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union envoy Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the negotiations on behalf of the global powers, said in a joint statement.

"We intend to build on the current momentum in order to complete these negotiations within the shortest possible time."

Tehran dismisses Western fears that its nuclear programme might have military aims, saying it is for peaceful energy only. However, the six powers - the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain - want to curb its uranium enrichment further to lengthen the time Iran would need to build a bomb.

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Tags:  Iran  nuclear  UN  US  talks  Israel  





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