The US abandoned late Tuesday a midnight deadline to agree the outlines of a nuclear deal with Iran but insisted that “enough progress” merited extending marathon talks into Wednesday.
“We’ve made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday. There are several difficult issues still remaining,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
The announcement came late on a sixth day of talks in Switzerland aimed at laying the groundwork for a deal that world powers hope will prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.
The stakes are high, with fears that failure to reach a deal may set the United States and Israel on a road to military action to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive, which Tehran says is purely peaceful.
A German diplomatic source also said the talks were “difficult” with a “changeable atmosphere” and “frequent breaks to negotiate in smaller groups.”
A Western diplomat said the army of technical and sanctions experts would continue plugging away “for (the) next hours. All parties (are) working hard and (are) committed to finding a solution.”
Senior Iranian negotiator Hamid Baidinejad said: “The negotiations will end when solutions have been found… We are ready to continue. We are not watching the clock.”
Top P5+1 diplomats worked past a midnight deadline into the early hours of Wednesday seeking to agree on the outlines of a nuclear deal with Iran, while the US threatened to “walk away” from negotiations if an accord could not be reached.
As the world powers were negotiating on a sixth day of talks in Switzerland aimed at laying the groundwork for a deal that they hope will prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program, the White House indicated that should a deal for a political framework not be reached, the US would leave the talks ahead of the final deadline in late June.
“If we’re not able to reach a political agreement, then we’re not going to wait … until June 30 to walk away,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Tuesday.
Meanwhile the US has denied that Iran was given an ultimatum late Tuesday to decide whether to accept the deal offered by the P5+1 lest its representatives leave Switzerland by dawn.
According to Reuters, two European diplomats said that the major powers “did not want to continue negotiating beyond the early morning on Wednesday.”
The commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable,” according to an Israel Radio report Tuesday.
Militia chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi also threatened Saudi Arabia, saying that the offensive it is leading in Yemen “will have a fate like the fate of Saddam Hussein.”
Naqdi’s comments were made public as Iran and six world powers prepared Tuesday to issue a general statement agreeing to continue nuclear negotiations in a new phase aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord by the end of June.