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Iran Nuclear Talks Still Face ‘Difficult Issues,’ Kerry Says

VIENNA — Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that there were still “difficult issues to resolve” before a landmark nuclear accord with Iran could be completed.

Mr. Kerry, who is in his 15th day of talks here, posted that message on Twitter after a meeting with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief.

Iran’s insistence on the lifting of a United Nations ban on shipments of conventional weapons in and out of the country has emerged as one of the remaining obstacles to a deal. That issue was thought to have been resolved during talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, in April. But Iran, with Russia’s support, pressed its demands over the past week.

An interim nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers — the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — has been extended through Monday so negotiators can pursue a final deal this weekend. That interim agreement freezes much of Iran’s nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

The extension of the interim agreement and the arrival of some of Mr. Kerry’s counterparts have raised expectations that the long-running negotiations may be moving into their last days after a difficult week in which diplomats from each side traded accusations of backtracking.

Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, returned here on Saturday morning to join Mr. Kerry and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s chief diplomat. Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, was expected to arrive later in the day.

Diplomats missed the original June 30 deadline for finishing the accord, and the talks have already been extended three times since then with no firm target date for a conclusion. Mr. Kerry spoke by phone on Saturday with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, but it is not clear when Mr. Lavrov will return or when China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, might attend.

On Friday, the White House sought to play down the extension of the talks, saying President Obama was not concerned about missing deadlines in his push for an accord.

It is unclear how a deal would change relations between Iran and its negotiating partners. But while meeting with Iranian students on Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said a deal would not alter Iran’s view of the United States.

“The struggle with the arrogant power does not end after a deal, it will be continued,” the ayatollah told the students. “If we do not struggle with the arrogant power we are not following the precepts of the holy Quran. America is the quintessential arrogant power. Be ready for struggle with the arrogant power.”

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(via NY Times)