• No new deadline for nuclear talks


    VIENNA: Iran said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) it is against extending a November 24 deadline for troubled nuclear talks, even though major stumbling blocks remain in the way of a deal.

    “We only have 40 days left to the deadline and none of the negotiators find [an]extension of talks appropriate,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Vienna, a day after six hours of intense talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

    “We share this view and we think there is no need to even think about it,” Zarif said in the Austrian capital, quoted by the state television’s website.

    The comments echoed a senior US State Department official late Wednesday after the talks between Kerry, Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in a Vienna hotel room.

    “Deadlines help people to make hard decisions, and there are hard decisions to be made here. And we must,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

    Kerry left Vienna on Thursday morning—after problems with his aircraft—but Zarif remained for talks with political directors from the US, Russia, Britain, China, France and Germany, the so-called P5+1 powers, chaired by Ashton.

    The deal being sought, after more than a decade of rising tensions, is meant to ease concerns that Iran might be able to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.

    To do this, the P5+1 powers want Iran to scale down dramatically the scope of its atomic activities, offering in return relief from painful sanctions, but Iran is resisting this.

    Iran denies seeking to build the atomic bomb and says it wants to expand its nuclear program in order to generate electricity and treat cancer patients.

    “Diplomatic efforts to find a resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue are now in a critical phase,” Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann said late on Thursday.

    “We are trying hard to make progress and remain fully engaged to achieve a comprehensive solution by the November 24 deadline,” he added.

    In months of discussions since an interim agreement struck last November took effect in January, some progress has been made.



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