Iran Nuclear Talks Stuck, Deadline May Be Extended

(Reuters) -

A deadline for resolving a 12-year-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program may be extended from Monday until March because of sharp disagreements between Tehran and world powers, officials close to the talks said on Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with European Union envoy Catherine Ashton to try to break the stalemate, but talk of an extension prompted calls for tougher sanctions in Washington.

The United States and its allies had hoped this week’s talks in Vienna would be the culmination of months of difficult diplomacy between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China on a comprehensive agreement.

The U.N. nuclear chief, Yukiya Amano, on Thursday highlighted another hurdle: Iran has yet to explain suspected atomic bomb research to the U.N. nuclear agency, one of the six powers’ conditions for lifting sanctions.

The latest round of talks between the six and Iran began on Tuesday and are likely to last right up to a self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline for a final agreement.

“Some kind of interim agreement at this point is likely, or perhaps at best a framework agreement by Monday that needs to be worked out in the coming weeks and months,” a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.