Iran nuclear talks set to go past deadline

White House press secretary Josh Earnest reported on talks. Picture: AP
White House press secretary Josh Earnest reported on talks. Picture: AP
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Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers were set to extend past last night’s deadline for the outline of an agreement – if enough progress is made to justify it, the White House said.

Yesterday’s statement by White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested talks meant to produce an outline that would allow the sides to continue negotiations until the 30 June final deadline had not bridged all gaps – but that the sides were working to produce a text with few specifics, accompanied by documents outlining areas where further talks were needed.

“If it’s necessary and, when I say if it’s necessary I mean if it’s midnight and a deal has not been reached but the conversations continue to be productive, we’ll be prepared to continue the talks into tomorrow,” said Mr Earnest.

He said President Barack Obama had been updated on the status of the talks. He also said it was possible that Mr Obama would be in touch with members of the negotiating team.

“If we are making progress toward the finish line, than we should keep going,” he added.

Officials earlier said that they hoped to wrap up six days of marathon talks with a statement agreeing to continue negotiations in a new phase to control Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

They had set a deadline of last night for a framework agreement, and later softened that wording to a framework understanding, between Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations – the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

After intense negotiations, obstacles remained on uranium enrichment, where stockpiles of enriched uranium should be stored, limits on Iran’s nuclear research and development and the timing and scope of sanctions relief among other issues. Iranian negotiator Hamid Baeedinejad said his side “can stay as long as necessary” to reach an agreement.

The aim has been a joint statement is to be accompanied by documents that outline more detailed understandings, allowing the sides to claim enough progress has been made to merit a new round, officials said. Iran has not yet signed off on the documents, one official said, meaning any understanding remains unclear.

The talks have already been extended twice as part of more than a decade of diplomatic attempts to curb Tehran’s nuclear advance. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to comment on the talks. If parties agree only to a broad framework that leaves key details unresolved, President Obama could face opposition from members of Congress who want to move forward with new Iran sanctions legislation.

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