‘Very, very, very tough’ Iran talks go into overtime

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VIENNA: Talks toward a historic nuclear deal between Iran and major powers go into overtime on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) after stumbling over what one Western diplomat called “very, very, very tough” remaining issues.

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Iran and six world powers have effectively given themselves until Friday to reach a deal by extending the terms of a 2013 interim accord under which Tehran has frozen parts of its nuclear program in return for minor sanctions relief.

This is the latest in a string of extensions aimed at ending almost two years of talks to resolve a 13-year standoff with the Islamic republic after foreign ministers failed to bridge the last few gaps in Vienna last week.

“Removing the remaining brackets [in the text of the agreement], this seems to be very, very, very tough,” the senior diplomat said Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as an 11th day of talks stretched late into the night.

But the envoy insisted the negotiations, originally due to end on June 30, are “not an open-ended process. We’ve given ourselves a couple more days because we think it can be done.”

This was rammed home by a second diplomat, who said the new target date is the “final” one.

“It’s difficult to see why and how we could go on any longer. Either this works in the next 48 hours or it doesn’t,” the second diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“We have never been closer, than we’ve ever been on this agreement, and we are still not where we need to be to finalize a deal,” a senior US administration official said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has remained in Vienna with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Their Russian, Chinese, French and British counterparts – which along with Germany make up the P5+1 group in talks with Iran – had already left.

AFP

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