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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Negotiators Work to Close Iran Nuclear Talks

by Victoria Macchi July 13, 2015

High-level meetings are underway on the last designated day for Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna, with intense speculation but no official indication that a deal will be announced.

As the latest talks deadline drew near (2200 GMT), White House spokesman Josh Earnest said negotiators in Vienna have made 'genuine progress,' but sticking points remain unresolved.

Earnest added that if a deal is not reached on Monday, an interim deal will remain in place, and U.S. negotiating team will remain in Vienna as long as talks remain useful.

Earlier comments to the media by several top diplomats involved in brokering the accord said important issues remained to be resolved ahead of the self-imposed deadline.

Iran and the six countries involved – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, as well as the EU's foreign minister – have burned through three similar deadlines since June 30 here in the Austrian capital in an attempt to finalize more than a decade of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

With the foreign ministers of China and Russian back in Vienna as of Sunday, diplomats had hinted the P5+1 and Iran were close to having the complex document ready.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on Monday there would be a comment on the nuclear talks later in the afternoon.

In a brief exchange as he left the Palais Coburg Monday afternoon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said 'there's always a chance' of a statement by the group before the end of the day.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi said some issues remained unresolved, and he could not promise whether a resolution would be reached by the end of the day.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to give a televised speech Monday evening to address the negotiations in Vienna, however Alireza Miryousefi, acting spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry during the talks, said a statement by the president will only take place when a deal is announced.

Working toward 'yes'

'Everyone working hard to get to yes today, but political will still required,' Miryousefi said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said conditions are in place for a 'good agreement.'

'We believe that there cannot and should not be further delays in the negotiations,' Wang said.

Wang and his counterparts from the United States, France, Russia and Germany convened their latest private meeting before midday Monday in Vienna.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was due to join the talks later in the day.

As the meeting began, a reporter asked a grim-faced U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry if there would be an extension, but Kerry did not answer.

Small protest

Outside the Palais Coburg, a group of about 20 American tourists staged a brief, but loud protest Monday afternoon – one of the only demonstrations in Vienna since the start of talks.

Amid shouts of 'No deal! No deal,' protester Mark Kaplan said the group came out to encourage Kerry to ax negotiations. He said he believes any allowances for Iran's nuclear program will lead to an atomic weapon, jeopardizing Israel and the rest of the region.

'We just want everybody to know we don't think it's a good deal,' Kaplan told VOA. 'What would I tell Kerry? I would tell Kerry don't do a deal with (Iran). There's no way to allow them to continue – they have never proved that they can keep their word.'

But Kaplan is in the minority – American voters largely back a nuclear deal with Iran, 58 percent to 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll at the end of April.

Several agreements

The process to address allegations that Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons – charges it denies – has included several smaller agreements along the way, starting with an interim deal in November 2013 that curbed the country's nuclear activity in return for limited sanctions relief.

The two sides agreed to work on a permanent deal with limits and monitoring on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for comprehensive lifting of sanctions imposed by the United Nations and by individual countries.

That was supposed to take six months, but the process has dragged on because of debates that included the pace of lifting the sanctions, access inspectors would have to Iranian facilities, and most recently Iran's push to have an arms embargo lifted.

Chris Hannas contributed to this report from Washington.

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