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Iran ready to extend nuke talks for a year

By Agencies in Vienna | China Daily | Updated: 2014-11-24 07:51

Teheran negotiating team: Reaching a final deal by Nov 24 is 'impossible'

Iran signaled on Sunday that it is willing to extend nuclear talks with world powers by up to a year if no real progress toward a deal is achieved.

Foreign ministers holding marathon negotiations in the Austrian capital, Vienna, have been deadlocked in their efforts to secure a high-stakes nuclear agreement before Monday's deadline.

An Iranian source said Iran is open to having the nuclear negotiations extended by six months or a year.

Such an extension would be under the terms of the Geneva accord that traded a temporary freeze on some aspects of Iran's nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief, the source said.

"We are still focused on agreeing to a kind of political agreement" that would not be written but would allow for negotiators to fine-tune technical aspects of the agreement later, the source said.

"But if between now and this afternoon or this evening we don't get there, the solution is we consider an extension of the Geneva accord," he said.

"That could be for a period of six months or a year. We must absolutely avoid a climate of confrontation with escalation from one side and the other," the source said.

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany have been locked in talks with Iran since February to turn the interim Geneva accord reached a year ago into a lasting agreement by Nov 24.

Iran rejects Western allegations that it has been seeking to develop a nuclear bomb capability. It insists its program is entirely peaceful.

"Considering the short time left until the deadline and number of issues that needed to be discussed and resolved, it is impossible to reach a final and comprehensive deal by Nov 24," the Iranian Students News Agency quoted an unnamed member of Iran's negotiating team in Vienna as saying on Sunday.

"We're working hard," US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday in Vienna. "We hope we're making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we're working to close."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also in the Austrian capital, called this final weekend of talks, after months of negotiations, a "moment of truth".

It was unclear when or whether Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player in the talks, might arrive.

Earlier this week the head of the Russian delegation said Lavrov would come only if there was serious progress.

AFP - Reuters

(China Daily 11/24/2014 page12)

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