VIENNA — The talks to complete a landmark accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program have been extended for several days after negotiators acknowledged that they would be unable to meet a Tuesday deadline.
To give negotiators more time to pursue a final accord, the diplomats agreed to extend through Friday an interim nuclear accord called the Joint Plan of Action. That interim agreement, which had been set to expire on Tuesday, freezes much of Iran’s nuclear program in return for modest sanctions relief.
“We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days,” Federica Mogherini, the foreign policy chief for the European Union, told reporters here.
This is the second time the talks have been extended since Secretary of State John Kerry arrived here in late June. The original goal was to complete a final accord by June 30.
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Ms. Mogherini said that the negotiations had entered “a difficult and sensitive” phase, but she did not discuss the remaining issues.
The unresolved issues in recent days have included what limits would be placed on the development of more efficient types of centrifuges after the first decade of an accord, what steps would be taken to address suspicions about Iran’s past nuclear activities, and the timeline for removing sanctions.
The Obama administration hoped to finish the accord by Thursday, so that it could be submitted to Congress for a 30-day review. If the agreement is finished this summer, the duration of the review period will double.
“We are taking these negotiations day to day to see if we can conclude a comprehensive agreement,” Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the American negotiating team here, said in a statement.
“We’ve made substantial progress in every area, but this work is highly technical and high-stakes for all of the countries involved,” Ms. Harf added. “We’re frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock, though we also know that difficult decisions won’t get any easier with time.”
Although some diplomats may leave in the coming days, Mr. Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, plan to stay in Vienna and keep negotiating. Ms. Mogherini will remain, too.
The six world powers negotiating with Iran are the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China.
An Iranian spokesman said that no new deadline had been set, as did Ms. Mogherini. “It does not mean we are extending our deadline,” she said in front of the Coburg Hotel, were the negotiations are being held. “An agreement is still possible.”
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After repeatedly missing deadlines, the United States and its negotiating partners appeared to be reluctant to formally announce another target date. There are concerns that setting a deadline might work to the Iranians’ advantage by encouraging them to hold out on critical issues, in the hope that Western powers will yield in the final hours.
Some Congressional Republicans have complained that Mr. Kerry was rushing to finish the accord by Thursday, which would allow the Obama administration to submit the accord to Congress this week and limit the review period to 30 days.
Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, urged Mr. Kerry to take his time in a telephone call on Saturday.
Mr. Kerry told reporters on Sunday that the Obama administration would not cut corners just to get an agreement and was prepared to walk away from the talks if a sound accord could not be reached.
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(via NY Times)