VIENNA — Elements are falling into place for an agreement to allow talks on Iran’s nuclear program to continue another seven months, a well-placed Western diplomat said Nov. 24.
The diplomat told The Associated Press that according to the deal, a broad agreement should be completed by March 1, with the final details worked out by July 1.
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the confidential talks, is familiar with the discussions now taking place in Vienna on how to continue the negotiations past the original deal deadline of Nov. 23 midnight.
Their comments matched earlier word that negotiations had now turned two-track, with the sides still racing to reduce differences at the negotiating table but also working on how long to extend the talks.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif agreed Nov. 23 to start discussion on the extension as it became clear that it would be hard to bridge the differences between them in the time before the deadline.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Nov. 24 that negotiators were still having “consultations” on a final agreement that meets both U.S. demands for strict curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program and Iran’s push for sanctions relief, also suggesting that moves toward an immediate deal had not yet been abandoned.
International negotiators are worried that Iran is using its nuclear development program as a cover for developing nuclear weapons, and they have imposed economic sanctions on Tehran. Iran denies that, saying it is only interested in producing power.
Wang arrived Nov. 24, joining the foreign ministers of the other countries negotiating with Iran — the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and Germany, in a top-level diplomatic effort to push the talks forward.
(MATTHEW LEE and GEORGE JAHN)