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Iran Nuclear Talks Are Nearing a Deal, Diplomats Say

Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna on Sunday.
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and DAVID E. SANGER
July 12, 2015

VIENNA — Negotiators from Iran and six world powers are getting closer to a landmark agreement that would limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for sanctions relief, diplomats said on Sunday.

Although the talks adjourned for the day with no agreement, negotiators said they would renew their efforts on Monday.

“We still have got work to do tomorrow,” the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said from his balcony at the Coburg Palace hotel. “No deal today.”

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State John Kerry sounded an unusually optimistic note, saying that his negotiations late Saturday night with Mr. Zarif had been fruitful.

“We had a very good meeting,” Mr. Kerry said as he left to attend Mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. “Positive. I think we’re getting to some real decisions. So I will say, because we have a few tough things to do, I remain hopeful. Hopeful.”

Mr. Kerry’s tone was strikingly more upbeat than on Thursday, when he warned that the United States would not be rushed into an agreement and might even walk away from the talks if headway was not made.

Maneuvering on the crutches he has been using since breaking his leg in late May, Mr. Kerry walked later in the day to Mozarthaus, where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once lived.

Sunday was Mr. Kerry’s 16th consecutive day at the talks, and after convening the rest of the United States negotiating team, he met with Mr. Zarif in the early evening.

In recent rounds of talks, negotiators have wrestled with what limits to set on Iran’s nuclear research, the pace of sanctions relief, and, recently, whether to maintain the arms embargo on Iran and, if so, for how long.

An Iranian spokesman said that it was unlikely the accord, which, including annexes, is more than 80 pages long, could be finalized by Sunday. Yet after weeks of brinkmanship, Iranian officials have made encouraging statements about the prospects for an accord.

“Technical discussions are almost over, and the text regarding the technical issues with their annexes is almost finished,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, are expected to rejoin the talks soon, another indication of progress. The chief diplomats from the other five nations involved in the talks are already here.

“I hope, I hope, that we are finally entering the final phase of this marathon negotiation,” said Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister.

A State Department official sought somewhat in vain to put an end to the speculation that the talks were finally in the endgame.

“We have never speculated about the timing of anything during these negotiations, and we’re certainly not going to start now — especially given the fact that major issues remain to be resolved in these talks,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters.